LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Conor McGregor was soundly beaten by Dustin Poirier less than six months ago. That doesn’t seem like enough time for the Irish superstar to patch all the holes Poirier punched in his game.
When they complete their rivalry trilogy Saturday night in the main event of UFC 264, Poirier (27-6) enters the cage as a better-rounded, more tested fighter than McGregor (22-5), who is competing in mixed martial arts for only the fourth time in nearly five years.
Yet McGregor’s famed punching power – and the world’s memory of his meteoric rise through his sport – remain tantalizing enough to create uncertainty in the minds of millions of fight fans. McGregor has done the improbable before, and he’ll probably never lose the ability to stoke his fans’ imaginations.
“This is my bread and butter,” McGregor said. “This is what wakes me up in the morning with fire in my belly. … I love to come in here, defy the odds, do the unthinkable and put on a show.”
That sounds somewhat like the old Conor, the former plumber who conquered the MMA world with two heavy hands and an unmatched gift of gab.
But will the same man get out of his luxury car at T-Mobile Arena? Can a self-described “fat-cat” multimillionaire return to his feral, ferocious form for another electrifying victory?
Poirier knows the possibility exists, and it’s reason enough to watch the conclusion to this three-fight epic that began with McGregor’s first-round knockout of Poirier in 2014 and continued with Poirier’s second-round stoppage of McGregor in Abu Dhabi.
“I have a healthy fear going into every fight,” Poirier said. “I know the dangers. I know what this guy can do.”
The winner of the main event gets the next lightweight title shot against champion Charles Oliveira, according to UFC President Dana White.
UFC 264 is co-headlined by a bout between former welterweight title challengers Gilbert Burns and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. The pay-per-view card also includes a heavyweight matchup between Tai Tuivasa and former NFL player Greg Hardy, while the undercard is topped by welterweights Carlos Condit of Albuquerque and Max Griffin.
Poirier is taking his own step backward to move forward: He could have waited for the title shot at Oliveira, who only won the 155-pound belt in May. Instead, Poirier agreed to this highly lucrative trilogy fight with the obvious risk of a loss that would derail his hopes of winning an undisputed title belt.
CELEBRITY WATCH: UFC president Dana White said former President Donald Trump and actor-filmmaker Mel Gibson will be in attendance for UFC 264.
McGregor has expressed great support for the 45th president, referring to him as “phenomenal” and “quite possibly” the best the USA has seen. Trump tweeted his congratulations to McGregor following his January 2020 win over Edgweood’s Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
White told Canadian sports station TSN that pop star Justin Bieber would also be in the crowd, along with comedian Dave Chappelle, Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant and at least one Kardashian.
NM CONNECTIONS: Albuquerque’s Condit and Santa Fe’s Jerome Rivera successfully made weight on Friday for their fights on Saturday’s card.
Condit (31-12) weighed in at 171 pounds for his welterweight fight against Griffin (17-8), of Sacramento, California, who weighed in at 170.5 pounds. Rivera (10-5) weighed in at 125.5 pounds for his flyweight fight, the same as his opponent, Kazakhstan’s Zhalgas Zhumagulov (13-5).
Both New Mexico fighters are betting underdogs, Condit at plus-165 (approximately 1½ to 1), Rivera at plus-270 (about 2½ to 1).