MMA coach John Kavanagh compares starting a business to the fight game 3 years ago

MMA coach John Kavanagh compares starting a business to the fight game

Brought to you by AIB. 

It’s not enough to take part.


Starting up a new business has a lot in common with going into an MMA fight. You need to put the work in if you want to survive, you have to know your competitors and it can be scary even if you’ve done all the necessary preparation.

With that in mind, we spoke to Conor McGregor’s coach to see what advice he could offer start-ups and to find out how they can punch above their weight. In addition to training the first man to ever hold two UFC titles simultaneously, John Kavanagh is also a successful businessman in his own right.

He started Straight Blast Gym from humble beginnings but grew it into a globally-recognised brand that now has 12 affiliated gyms around the country. Kavanagh knows exactly what it takes to step into the unknown with your business.

“It’s a bit scary and a bit daunting to do something from scratch on your own,” he said at the recent AIB Start-up Academy Dublin Summit. “There will be days where you doubt yourself so you definitely need to have that self-belief.”

start-up john kavanagh

Having a good support structure can also make a massive difference. Having negative influences can drag you down when you're trying to launch a new business so Kavanagh has made a conscious effort to surround himself with positive, enthusiastic people.

The similarities between an MMA fighter and an entrepreneur are more obvious than you might imagine. Success depends greatly on the effort that you put in and how much energy, commitment and hard work you're willing to put into the venture. It also depends on being honest with yourself about whether you're doing enough to achieve your aims.


“One of my main roles with [fighters] is to make them accountable. If they tell me they want to be a champion, I measure the hours they’ve been training. If they’re not training like a champion, they’re not going to be a champion!”

Anyone who starts up their own business will know that it isn’t a nine to five job. Kavanagh advises anyone who's thinking of starting their own business to do something that they're passionate about.

It's easier to keep grinding away and putting in the long hours if you really love what you do. Being totally passionate about the business you're starting is the only way you'll last the course in what can be an attritional process.

“An average week for me is 60-70 hours and anybody I know who works for themselves would have a similar story. Unless you really enjoy something, you won’t stick with it!”

To read the full business article from which these stories were taken, check out AIB's blog here.


Brought to you by AIB.