The perennial UFC lightweight shocked McGregor and hit him via TKO after beating him on Saturday night at 2:32 a.m. in the second round at the main UFC 257 event in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Poirier first injured McGregor in the right leg with kicks in the calf. After McGregor’s leg was compromised, Poirier tore off a number of tough punch combinations. The final blow was a right hand shovel that McGregor dropped. Poirier followed on the ground, and umpire Herb Dean stepped in, to name it, which marked the first KO or TKO loss of McGregor’s 13 year career.
McGregor and Poirier had fought before, and McGregor won a featherweight match by TKO in the first round at UFC 178 in 2014.
“I felt his presence less, his aura less,” said Poirier, who entered the fight as a Plus 275 outsider. “I just saw another fighter tonight. I think the first time I was some kind of stag in the headlights, you could say. This time I only fought another man – another man who was bleeding just like me. And I knew that. “
Current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov made it clear that he wants to retire, but whether he gives up the belt or not, Poirier has now got in the driver’s seat for a title shot.
“I feel like I’ve done everything except that I can’t go away and say I’m the champion,” said Poirier. “I want to be the champion. If you are the champion, you can say that you are the champion forever.”
ESPN had Poirier at # 3 and McGregor at # 10 in the world at £ 155.
McGregor had a strong first round. He landed several hard left hands and a beautiful right shovel hook that snapped Poirier’s head back. Poirier took McGregor down, but McGregor stood up again relatively easily.
The two fought at a clinch, and McGregor landed some hard hits, like the ones he’d injured Donald Cerrone with a year ago. Poirier lost the round, but he landed hard kicks on the calf that came into play later.
In the second round, McGregor landed tough combos but struggled to verify Poirier’s calf kick. McGregor was beginning to catch Poirier’s kicks and landing punches. Even so, the damage was done.
In the end sequence Poirier landed a hard kick on McGregor’s right calf, which clearly injured him. Poirier pushed McGregor against the cage, releasing a hard combination that shook McGregor – and then another that culminated with a beautiful right hand that McGregor dropped.
“The game plan was to kick, wrestle and box,” said Poirier. “”[Coach] Mike Brown was big on me when I threw his calf kicks in that fight and it worked. “
McGregor admitted being injured by the kicks in the calves and said he was “severely compromised” by them.
“It’s hard to take. The highest highs and the lowest lows in this game,” McGregor said at his post-fight press conference. “My leg is completely dead. Though I felt like checking it, it just sank into the muscle at the front of the leg and was badly affected.”
“I didn’t adjust and that was it,” added McGregor. “Dustin’s fair play. I’m very happy for him.”
UFC President Dana White said at his post-fight press conference he thinks Poirier will fight Michael Chandler for the next easy title, he added that a recent conversation with Nurmagomedov about his UFC future “didn’t sound too positive”.
“He said to me, ‘Dana, be honest with you. I’m so many levels above these guys, I beat these guys,'” White said of his conversation with Nurmagomedov. “I don’t know. But it doesn’t sound very positive. We’ll see.”
“I’ll speak to Khabib and see if he wants to defend this title,” added White. “And if he doesn’t, I won’t push it anymore.”
Poirier said he would be interested in a rematch with McGregor but doesn’t want his next fight against Chandler because Chandler was just making his UFC debut on Saturday. Chandler refused Dan Hooker in the first round.
“I can guarantee that I won’t fight Michael Chandler,” said Poirier. “You can do what you want with the division.
“It’s not a blow to him. It’s just my feeling for the division and the sport.”
Poirier overtook McGregor 48-29 in significant strikes, 18 of which were leg kicks, according to UFC statistics.
It was McGregor’s first fight since Cerrone’s 40-second knockout at UFC 246 in January 2020, and his first lightweight since losing to Nurmagomedov in 2018. McGregor has only fought three times in the UFC since 2016 but vowed to to stay active this year. This week he wanted to fight seven times over the next 18 months.
When asked what’s next for him, McGregor said he thinks there are several good matchups out there. He said he was hoping for a third fight with Poirier.
“I’m going to take a different approach to the trilogy with Dustin,” said McGregor. “You shouldn’t mess with these kicks. The calf kick, the low calf kick, I hadn’t experienced that.”
White said he thought Saturday’s defeat would make McGregor “hungrier”.
“There are two options: hungrier or ‘I’m done,'” said White.
UFC 257 took place in front of a limited number of fans at the Etihad Arena with COVID-19 logs. It was the first UFC pay-per-view event with ticket fans since last March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Poirier (27-6, 1 NC), the former UFC interim lightweight champion, has only suffered one loss in his last nine fights – to Nurmagomedov. The native Louisian, who trains from the American Top Team in Florida, had a unanimous win over Hooker in June. The 32-year-old Poirier has been a lightweight competitor since losing to McGregor in 2014 11-2 (1 NC) and has long been a competitor.
McGregor (22-5), 32, had won three of his last four, the only loss during that period being to Nurmagomedov in a title shot. The Irish native was the first simultaneous double champion in UFC history. He won the lightweight belt and was also a featherweight champion Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016.