The bad news for Conor McGregor fans is that he was knocked out by Dustin Poirier in the second round of their UFC 257 main event early Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
The good news for fans of the Irish superstar? Her husband immediately realized that he was not at his best in this fight, understood why, and had a plan to improve the way he can: by fighting more often.
“It’s hard to get over long periods of inactivity,” said McGregor after just his third MMA fight since 2016. “I just didn’t feel as comfortable as I needed to be. You know what I mean? It is Inactivity, and that’s it. ” it.”
McGregor started well enough and landed a left hand straight out of the gate that caught Poirier’s attention. The fight quickly turned into a fight against the cage, which negated the lauded power of McGregor, and Poirier was shut down and briefly in control of the mat. As soon as the fighters were back on their feet, Poirier landed kicks in the calf and damaged McGregor’s foreleg. Despite this, McGregor took the first round on all three judges’ scorecards.
But it didn’t play out like a 2016 McGregor fight. He absorbed those immobilized calf kicks, and although he landed a few straight left hands, he never bandaged in a way that slowed Poirier. It was Poirier who landed the damaging blow, a left hand in the middle of the second round that stumbled McGregor against the cage. This sparked a Poirier riot that dropped McGregor and impressed the crowd at the Etihad Arena. The TKO came at 2 minutes, 32 seconds.
“I need activity folks, come on,” said a humble McGregor. “You know, you can’t get away from being inactive in this business, and it is. So I’ll take my licks.”
McGregor told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on Thursday that he would like to fight seven times over the next year and a half. Anyway, that’s as many fights as there has been since the summer of 2015. If McGregor comes close to that pace, it stands to reason that he’ll be sharper.
Will it be an elixir for the 32-year-old to increase his activity level? We will see. But while he looked like a faded fighter in the short time he was in the cage with Poirier, one thing is for sure: McGregor is not treated like one by the UFC.
For most fighters, a grave loss in the cage is perhaps best symbolized by the gruesome sound of a door slamming into their face. The glories that they have been saving for their imaginary future are suddenly inaccessible.
But McGregor plays the mixed martial arts game differently from most fighters. He positions himself where the chances are greatest. And even after that loss, McGregor has innumerable opportunities ahead of him.
The defeat extinguished McGregor’s hopes for an immediate attempt to regain the lightweight championship belt he once owned. But what otherwise would have been a golden road up the mountain could now go in a number of directions, all of which may be fulfilled.
Even after a major loss, McGregor is a win the UFC will be looking for ways to get him back into the mix of competitors in the UFC’s stacked lightweight division. But will McGregor see this as his best way forward?
Chael Sonnen breaks Dustin Poirier’s win over Conor McGregor at UFC 257 and what McGregor looked like on his return.
Three and a half years ago, when McGregor ruled the UFC as the first second division champion, he made a detour into the boxing world to play an incredibly lucrative game against Floyd Mayweather. It was the beginning of the end of McGregor’s run as UFC champion – he would be taking off both his featherweight and light belts due to inactivity by spring 2018 – but it made him a richer man and made a big payday for the UFC, also.
Today McGregor wears the same outfit that Manny Pacquiao wears. So if McGregor desires a return to boxing, this is a fight that could likely be fought. With McGregor not featured in the cover picture or blocking the momentum of other fighters or divisions, the UFC probably wouldn’t mind making money again.
McGregor can also go the spectacle route in MMA by concluding his trilogy with Nate Diaz. It would be a big fight in terms of the attention it would get, but one thing it wouldn’t be is a legitimate step back into the title competition. Since the two encounters between these men in 2016, Diaz has only competed twice, most recently against Jorge Masvidal in 2019. But Diaz could never cease to interest fans.
In his cage interview shortly after Poirier knocked him out, McGregor didn’t sound like a fighter looking for another detour. If he actually has the drive to work his way back down to the edge it takes to get a title run, it seems that McGregor’s immediate future will center on the fate of another old rival, Khabib Nurmagomedov. The UFC lightweight champion announced his retirement in October and reiterated several times over the past week that he has no plans to return to the Octagon.
If Nurmagomedov’s belt becomes free, it will likely be up for grabs in a fight between Poirier and newcomer Michael Chandler, the former Bellator champion who defeated Dan Hooker in the UFC 257 co-main event. This is the potential matchup that UFC President Dana White found most useful during the post-fight press conference.
That scenario would leave Charles Oliveira, winner of eight straight, the odd man in the lightweight division. Could McGregor be interested in facing the man with more submissions than anyone in UFC history? A win over the Brazilian fighter could put McGregor right back on the cover, but would that fight be any different for McGregor without more time in the cage?
On the other hand, McGregor can get a caged date with whoever he wants – be it Diaz, Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, or anyone else. That’s how much the UFC values McGregor. Even after smoking at UFC 257, a booking with McGregor remains a lottery ticket. Virtually every fighter on the UFC roster would take advantage of such a lucrative opportunity.
As long as Conor McGregor really wants to be more active, it won’t be difficult for him to find dance partners.