First there were the allegations that he had deliberately doctored footage of his sparring sessions to lull Mayweather into a false sense of security. Then there were the candid social media snaps of McGregor standing in the ring with his hands clasped confidently behind his back, or training in a pair of £500 Gucci swimshorts.
And eyebrows were raised even further when he invited Paulie Malignaggi into his training camp — an old foe who had previously snarled he would “knock McGregor’s beard off” if handed the chance. It didn't take long for the two men to resume their feud, with Malignaggi quick to quit the Las Vegas training camp, branding it a “circus” and “fiasco”.
But nothing has generated quite as much intrigue as when McGregor recently shared a series of photographs of his workout at the UFC’s newly-built Performance Institute, which depicted him being put through a series of strenuous exercises in a specialised hydrotherapy pool.
The dimly-lit images are nothing if not impressive, and look as though they could be taken straight from one of the training scenes in Rocky IV.
McGregor is shown wearing strapping across his chest as he runs on an underwater treadmill, while staring determinedly forward at a large screen positioned in front of him. All around him stand his entourage, holding various pieces of technological equipment as they offer him encouragement throughout his workout.
It’s a far cry from the gruelling early-morning jogs up a mountainside and slogging it out with an old leather heavybag, that used to be synonymous with working out for a big fight. But what is McGregor actually achieving in the images?
A lot more, it turns out, than simply jogging. “Athletes put a lot of stress on their bodies when they are training at such high-levels,” Mike McHugh from HydroWorx, the company that manufactures the underwater treadmill McGregor was using, explains.
“By training in a HydroWorx, it allows athletes to get a high-intensity workout and maintain cardiovascular endurance in a low-impact environment. The UFC is a movement sport, it's a cardiovascular sport where strength and power is important. The underwater treadmill gives McGregor the ability to move in all directions just as he would in a competitive situation, but without the significant joint impact that he would experience performing similar movements on land.
“The treadmills work up to 16km/h with the resistance jets and they can challenge you very hard cardiovascularly - but without the joint impact. He could have a very intense workout or choose to run at a moderate pace to flush his system and speed recovery so his muscles are fresh and ready to go the next day.”
HydroWorx is an American company, who have provided products with underwater treadmills and resistance therapy jets since 1998. The company has grown massively since then, with over 30k athletes and patients making use of their technology every day to recover from injuries and health conditions.
But their technology does not only help those in rehabilitation. More and more elite-level athletes are beginning to make use of the underwater treadmills and their hot and cold recovery plunge pools to improve both their cardiovascular fitness and the length of their careers.
“What we have helped to do is to extend the careers of athletes,” explains the CEO of the company, Matt Foss. “As athletes become older the pounding of just running on a field for example, starts to become a lot more noticeable. The benefit of our products is that it eliminates next day soreness: you can work very hard but the next day you do not feel as you would have you completed a similar level of strenuous exercise on dry land.
“And that is why we are seeing more athletes every day using the technology, such as McGregor, because they are now aware of the benefits of the water and the fact that it is less damaging on their joints and their back. So our technology has had a huge impact on the conditioning of elite-level athletes.”
Although pictures of McGregor making use of the technology quickly went viral, HydroWorx have been supplying top NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, Universities and elite training facilities like St. Georges Park since the late 1990s, and also work with a number of Premier League football teams, including Chelsea, Manchester City, Bournemouth, Swansea, Burnley and Manchester United to name a few.
And the relentless nature of the football season means that the technology is actually perfectly suited to elite-level football clubs, as McHugh explains.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in England,” he says, “and one of the really interesting things about elite-level football is that the season never truly ends. Top squads are loaded with international players who play in the summer, and football has essentially become a year-round sport. There is a higher emphasis on equipment like ours which will help take care of a player for a full year and help get them through a very long season.”
It wasn’t long before the UFC decided to get involved, implementing a HydroWorx 2000 pool at the promotion’s brand new Performance Institute, which opened in May 2017 and cost over $14m.
“The UFC had seen a few other facilities that had HydroWorx products and they wanted to replicate what some other elite facilities looked like,” McHugh adds.
“The ability to perform multi-directional movements is obviously critical because the sport demands rapid changes of movements in all different directions. And on our underwater treadmills, you are not limited to vertical movement like you see in anti gravity treadmills.”
HydroWorx might supply some of the biggest sports clubs on the planet — not to mention having some of the world’s most dangerous mixed martial arts practitioners making use of their products — but the company are keen to add that they do not only help international sports stars.
“It’s a really vast market of people that we are helping every single day with our products from children to the aging adult and everyone in between,” says McHugh. “We help everyone from the elderly person who has just had surgery and needs to be lowered down into the water safely on our moveable floor and can walk at slow speeds pain free, to the world-class international athlete.
“And that is what HydroWorx was created to do: to help people. Whether that’s individuals who have suffered life-changing injuries or primetime UFC fighters,” Foss adds. “We are serving all different kinds of people. And that is our mission, to heal and condition the world with the power of water. That is why we come to work every day.”
For more information on HydroWorx, click here.