Chris van Heerden has had 27 fights over the course of a decade long professional boxing career, winning 24 times, and he has shared the ring with one of the sport’s most touted young talents in Errol Spence Jr., yet the few rounds he spent sparring with Conor McGregor have lent him a notoriety the likes of which he has never experienced.
Over the last few weeks, the 28-year-old South African’s name has littered the world’s media. It’s not something he is used to, but Van Heerden knew what he was getting into when he chose to trade leather with the UFC’s biggest star. In fact, as he acknowledged in a recent interview with Submission Radio, it’s exactly the result he was hoping for.
“I knew with the whole [Floyd]Mayweather/McGregor talks in the line, and now me sparring with McGregor, I knew my name would just blow up so much,” said Van Heerden. “I saw the opportunity and I grabbed it”.
The timing of their interaction certainly was fortuitous for a fighter looking to increase his name value, as the glare of the sporting press has never been more fixated upon the Irishman. McGregor’s highly-publicized ‘retirement’ and the entire saga surrounding UFC 200 was swiftly followed by the massive story that Van Heerden alluded to – that of a potential boxing match between he and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
At a time when people were most interested in hearing such analysis, Van Heerden found himself in the position of being able to offer a professional boxer’s insight into the pugilistic prowess of McGregor. Which he did in a recent interview with Elie Seckbach,
Aside from the fact that he was given the chance to assess McGregor’s in-ring ability first-hand, Van Heerden was also able to ask the UFC featherweight champion directly about the chances of the fight actually manifesting.
“He laughed about it and he said ‘Mayweather started it and I’m going with it. And everyone wants it, so if it’s there I’m going to take it’. So that’s all he said and we all had a laugh about it”.
McGregor’s focus currently seems to be elsewhere though. He may have sought out a professional boxer for sparring, but Van Heerden bears no resemblance to Mayweather in terms of style or stance. Something the lanky lefty pointed out himself.
“He searched for a southpaw,” said “The Heat”. “Mayweather’s not a southpaw”.
But Nate Diaz is.
McGregor’s UFC 196 conqueror recently had his own little spat with UFC executives, fuelled by disagreements over his pay for a proposed rematch with “The Notorious” one, but that fight is still a far more likely prospect than a Mayweather vs McGregor bout.
Asked about his thoughts on this possible sequel, Van Heerden once again revealed details that McGregor had divulged to him.
“I spoke to Conor and he is so positive. He actually said ‘You know what? If I get the rematch with Nate, I’m now more confident than ever that I will beat him. I know where I made my mistakes and it was in training camp. I will do better next time. I’m confident I will beat him'”.
McGregor’s defeat has been analysed with a great intensity in the weeks since, but among the most common theories for his downfall is that he came in too heavy and his cardio suffered as a result. Could a focus on size over conditioning be the in-camp mistake to which Conor is referring? Others feel however, that McGregor’s tactical approach on the night itself was more to blame for his sudden gassing than anything that went before it.
Either way, having talked to McGregor about the subject, Van Heerden is confident that his sparring mate can reverse the result of that dramatic night in March.
“In a rematch, I would back Conor,” he predicted confidently.
You can check out the entire interview below….