All eyes are on the UFC lightweight division, which is home to many of the biggest names in MMA and where many of the biggest question marks fuel heated debates.
The biggest uncertainty is above: who is really the champion? Dustin Poirier believes he’s the legitimate champion after beating Conor McGregor at UFC 257 because Khabib Nurmagomedov is actually retired. However, Nurmagomedov is still listed as the defending champion in the UFC rankings.
Then comes the question of who Poirier should fight next. Assuming a title is at stake, should it choose the top challenger who would be Charles Oliveira or possibly Michael Chandler? Or should the 10 year old veteran be trying to make money and have a trilogy fight against McGregor, regardless of whether it is for a title?
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto and Marc Raimondi agree that Poirier is the linchpin of all the scenarios, but they disagree on how the UFC should go about it.
Okamoto: Assuming Khabib Nurmagomedov clears the £ 155 title in the near future that we both believe will, this marquee division is up for grabs.
Apparently Dustin Poirier took out Conor McGregor on January 23rd. You also have Michael Chandler coming from Bellator who immediately made a splash by stopping Dan Hooker on the same card. You have Charles Oliveira and his eight-fight winning streak. Justin Gaethje, who still has a high standing. Nate Diaz is a wild card. Great opportunities. I think it kind of starts with Poirier, doesn’t it? It is the first domino to fall. Let me ask you: who should Poirier fight next?
Raimondi: That’s really the $ 1 million question, isn’t it, Brett? And the reason I use this terminology is because for me the answer is simple. Poirier should take the fight that brings him the most money. This is probably the Conor McGregor trilogy.
I know what hardcore fans are going to say. I get it. And I also know that Poirier wants to be the champion more than anything. But he also has to think about his family.
How many people have ever gotten the payday that McGregor opponents got? And then how many got it twice? Only Nate Diaz has and he has made so much money that he has only fought twice in the last five years and is doing absolutely fine. If Poirier beats McGregor again, the title fight will be there for him. Millions of dollars too.
Okamoto: You disappoint me, Marc. I thought I was talking to another MMA purist. You know, if Poirier fights McGregor again, there will likely be a UFC championship associated with it, and we both know, as amazing as McGregor’s career has been and as popular as he is, he shouldn’t be fighting for a UFC title in his next fight . I haven’t even placed him in the top 10 at Lightweight. He hasn’t won a £ 155 fight since 2016.
But … I get your point. And I don’t quite disagree. Poirier himself said he would be interested in another fight with McGregor or one with Nate Diaz. These are money fights – what Poirier deserves. He has been fighting in the UFC for over 10 years – and before that in the WEC. Redeem.
But I think there is a way for him to make money and still do what the division is doing right. Before I suggest that, how likely do you think these are the Poirier vs. McGregor 3 UFC books, and how do you justify winning a title?
Raimondi: I really can’t justify this if I’m honest. The UFC has really painted itself in a corner by not taking the UFC 257 main event between Poirier and McGregor for the title. That would have solved all the problems that we are trying to solve now.
In an ideal world, Poirier vs. McGregor 3 wouldn’t be for the title. But you are 100% right. If that’s the next, I could very well see the UFC putting the belt on the line. I think the argument would be that McGregor already has a victory over Poirier and that is for all marbles? I wouldn’t really buy this as McGregor defeated Poirier almost seven years ago.
What I want to see is Poirier following the McGregor trilogy first and letting the Oliveiras, Chandlers and Gaethjes of the world rule the division. Then Poirier can chase the gold if he beats McGregor. I really believe the chance of beating the greatest star in UFC history twice is too good to miss.
The title is great, but a lot of people won it. Hit McGregor twice when he can? Poirier would go down as a legendary name in martial arts. Next, if Poirier fights Oliveira – with all due respect to the outstanding Brazilian fighter – it would attract a fraction of the audience, attention and money.
Okamoto: OK, so glad you said all of this because it is my solution Perfect. And I don’t even know if we’re really “debating” right now, Marc, but my competitive spirit is kicking in and I’ll drop the microphone on you, my friend. Ready?
The following should happen. The UFC should crown Poirier champion. Now I know that the PhD doesn’t like this historically. They want the belt to be won in a fight, in an event they can promote. But here is what you do. You get on the Poirier train right now. You benefit from Nurmagomedov’s decision to retire – which will still be big news once it gets “official” – and you come out and say, “Dustin’s the guy. This is the best 155 pounder out there World. He hit Max Holloway twice. He knocked out Justin Gaethje. He knocked out former Masters Anthony Pettis and Eddie Alvarez. And he just knocked out the great Conor McGregor! Us would have put a belt around this man’s waist! He’s the man! “
And with that you do a couple of things. They put Poirier on a champion’s contract, which means he’ll do more in his next fight. They throw marketing weight behind them and motivate them to legitimize the belt for what’s best for the sport. And then you book McGregor vs. Diaz 3 knowing the fight will sell and you can turn around and sell the winner – whoever he is – as a future title contender for Poirier. Boom! Marc, tell me how good that is.
Raimondi: I do not disagree with what you just said in principle. Poirier should be the champion now. The UFC doesn’t just distribute such titles, however. If that happened in this case, I’m all for it.
And the idea of starting McGregor versus Diaz 3, with the winner potentially battling Poirier down the line, sounds like a great idea. However, what if Poirier goes out and loses to Oliveira or Chandler? Obviously, Gaethje would have a chance to beat Poirier if they had a rematch. Is it worth it for Poirier to forego the chance to face McGregor in a career-defining trilogy fight?
Poirier is an athlete and I think he would like his chances in any of these cases. But it is quite the risk. What if McGregor lost that third fight with Diaz and moved away from MMA? The big money trilogy would have disappeared forever. I believe in hitting while the iron is hot. This is a price war, and more than the title – for better or worse – the price is money. And that means that McGregor is the fight you have to fight immediately when you are Poirier.
The good news is that Poirier took the driver’s seat. He has many options, most of them very good. A question for you while we are here, Brett, if Poirier wins the title now, who will be his first challenger?
Okamoto: All true points. In my scenario, it’s really because of the UFC that it’s worth it for Poirier to skip the immediate trilogy fight with McGregor.
To answer your question, I would go with Michael Chandler in person. They talk about hitting while the iron is hot. Chandler is the hot hand when it comes to a title challenger. He was perfect in that fight against Dan Hooker, and his post-fight speech was spot on when he exclaimed McGregor and Nurmagomedov.
If the UFC went with Oliveira instead, that wouldn’t be wrong. He clearly deserved it. But I think in Chandler you have a former champion from another promotion who came in and proved himself on his debut. So I would play Poirier against Chandler and make it Poirier’s first title defense.
Thank you for the support everyone! Wasn’t there my night / morning but a great competition to improve myself. I’m looking forward to the blockbuster trilogy that I now have in my hands. Dustin’s a damn good competitor and I’m looking forward to going back. God bless us all, have a nice Sunday ❤️
– Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) January 24, 2021
To wrap up the Poirier-McGregor topic, the UFC can go a long way in ticking all the boxes here, if only they really throw their weight behind Poirier. Know him as the champion. Put him on a champion deal. Promote him as the baddest man at 155 pounds. You’re still right, all of this doesn’t make him the same money an instant trilogy fight with McGregor would bring, but it is valuable to see Poirier first receive the recognition he deserves as the undisputed UFC champion.
And if McGregor does Defeat Diaz in a fight that we both know would sell well over 1 million pay-per-views, and then say he’s obsessed with fixing the Poirier situation … well, Poirier did only paid more than he would have if he had booked this fighting now.
Raimondi: I wouldn’t be against any of these scenarios. I would be more inclined to have Oliveira next just because of that incredible performance against Tony Ferguson. I mean, I’ve never seen anyone treat Ferguson like Oliveira. After eight wins in a row, Oliveira is currently the best lightweight in the world. With that said, Chandler would be a great challenger to Poirier and if it gets sold right I think this could be a really big fight.
Let’s fight for that crown. The winner takes it all and becomes the King of Lightweight Division https://t.co/fGJd6OlvIX
– Charles Oliveira (@CharlesDoBronxs) January 26, 2021
Both would pale in comparison to a trilogy fight with McGregor, however. Sure, that could happen across the board if Poirier is the reigning champion, but that puts a lot of faith in chance. It’s a crazy world. We are still in a global pandemic. And if there’s one more bang for Poirier on this McGregor payday, no one should disapprove of him for taking it. It wouldn’t just be about the money either. Even if Poirier became the champion – as he should be now – that doesn’t have the same stamp of approval as the potential of two wins against McGregor. If Poirier effectively ended McGregor’s run as an elite fighter with his fists in two straight wins, he would be remembered forever.