NFL

Super Bowl 2020: How the 49ers & Conor McGregor are bound by a therapy method yielding results for both

By Sports Desk January 31, 2020

There aren't many similarities between the San Francisco 49ers and Conor McGregor.

While McGregor plies his trade in blood-and-thunder five-round contests in the UFC Octagon, the 49ers operate in an NFL world where almost cinematic sporting dramas play out over around three hours in gargantuan stadia.

Yet there is one parallel that runs through McGregor's dominant recent victory over Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone and the Niners' surge to Super Bowl LIV in Miami on Sunday, and it relates to their shared use of a postural therapy method.

The Egoscue Method, created by founder Pete Egoscue, is a form of therapy used to eliminate chronic pain and increase functional mobility.

Jack Nicklaus said Egoscue "totally changed my life" following his well-documented back problems, and should the 49ers lift the Lombardi Trophy by beating the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, two former Egoscue staff members now employed by San Francisco will be among those celebrating.

Niners general manager John Lynch, who joined the team along with head coach Kyle Shanahan in 2017, knew Egoscue from high school, and their long-standing relationship led to the team hiring Elliott Williams and Tom Zheng as functional performance staff.

Brian Bradley, Egoscue's vice president of brand development and strategic partnerships, worked with the 49ers into Lynch's second year in charge but distanced himself from taking credit for San Francisco's success in 2019.

He told Omnisport: "I've worked with John since his college years, into his pro years and then afterward when he was an analyst, and then when he became GM, we knew we were going to do something together because he knows he has the best interests of every player at heart and he knows Egoscue has the foundational movement for that.

"They're in their third year and the reason why this kind of stuff is successful is because John has built a congruent organisation.

"They're not in the Super Bowl because of Egoscue, they're in the Super Bowl because they've drafted five number one draft picks for defensive line. They have an amazing quarterback, they have amazing running backs, they have a great tight end, they have a great team and the athletic trainers and the medical staff work very well with the strength staff, and then the functional performance coaches, who are right in between there, are doing an amazing job.

"They [Williams and Zheng] used to work for me and I hired them but I won't take any credit for anything other than that. They're just good guys."

However, the aforementioned tight end, All-Pro George Kittle, was effusive in his praise when asked about Williams and Zheng ahead of the Niners' seventh Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

Kittle, who recently revealed he has played with a torn labrum since 2018, told reporters: "I've worked with them almost every single day since I got here. They've been one of the most important parts of my recovery every single week, just from a function movement standpoint.

"After a game when you get hit a bunch of times, your body's kind of out of whack and they always help me get it back to square one which allows me to play week in, week out.

"They're incredible, incredibly professional, they have a great time doing what they do and the amount of guys that they've helped in the three years I've been here has been uncountable."

Getting the body in the right alignment is a key tenet of the Egoscue Method, and Bradley's influence in assisting McGregor in that regard was a factor in his devastating 40-second win over Cowboy.

Bradley said: "I got hooked up with Conor because, after the Khabib [Nurmagomedov] fight, I lost my mind about it.

"The minute I saw the fight with Khabib, I'm looking at it on my television saying, 'This is an unfair fight', and nobody knows that it's unfair because the way that Conor was aligned with his head position, upper back and hips, he wasn't able to drive punches from his hip.

"He was driving from his shoulder and he was trying to breathe with his shoulders, just watch him in the first round and the second round, he's heaving his shoulders up and down to try to breathe.

"My good friend and colleague [motivational speaker] Tony Robbins got a hold of him, and I took pictures of the TV and sent these to Tony and said, 'You've got to get these to McGregor somehow because something in his camp has gone wrong'. About six months later, he says 'Look, I'm meeting with him'.

"The idea of being a hip-driven athlete fully resonated with him [McGregor] because he said, 'I felt like I wasn't getting enough power out of my punch and I couldn't breathe, and I see by the pictures that you took when I was fighting, I see the cause'.

"I gave him five things to do 12 days out from the fight [with Cowboy]. I gave him a more resilient, hip-driven movement so that no matter what he was doing, you weren't going to see a kid who was out of breath in this fight.

"When he was fighting Cowboy, he drove his shoulder into his face four times, he didn't just raise his shoulder up, he drove from the leg through the hip, through the shoulder and up into his face. He won the fight with four punches off his shoulder and one kick to the head."

It is unlikely the 49ers will land such a quick knockout blow against the Chiefs, but if the stars align for them at Hard Rock Stadium, it will be in part because their functional performance staff got their bodies in the right position.

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