The Irish megastar is back! Conor McGregor is returning for his second fight of 2021, and there’s a lot that makes this one special. UFC 264 will take place on Saturday July 10 in front of a sold out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, headlined by a trilogy bout between lightweights Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
Chapter 1: UFC 178 Sept. 27, 2014
McGregor and Poirier first met back at UFC 178 in 2014, a card that featured fighters such as Dominick Cruz, Stephen Wonderboy Thompson, and Jorge Masvidal on the prelims. McGregor and Poirier were featured as the third fight on the card in a featherweight fight, where McGregor would go on to KO Poirier in just 1 minute and 46 seconds. In just his 4th fight in the UFC, this was still the time that McGregor was solidifying all of the hype behind his name as he was still introducing himself to the UFC, and the non-European MMA scene as a whole. It was also the peak of his mind games. Much of the talk after this fight was that McGregor had won it before it had even started. McGregor was successfully able to get inside Poirier’s head, therefore making him fight mad and fighting off his normal game, leading to Poirier getting KO’d for the first time in his career.
Chapter 2: UFC 257 Jan. 23, 2021
The two wouldn’t meet again until 7 years after their initial meeting. McGregor was looking to make his return after the Covid-19 Pandemic, among other things, derailed his 2020 return “season”. Looking to fight actively again, McGregor ended up choosing Poirier as his opponent. At the time, Poirier was a top contender in the lightweight division, and McGregor liked the idea of fighting a top contender who he had already beat in the past. If McGregor won, he’d be able to skip the line for a title shot. If Poirier won, he could solidify himself as the undisputed title contender (which was being held at the time by Khabib Nurmagomedov who was pretty clear he was retiring, unless you asked Dana White, who claimed he was still coming back).
Taking place on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi in front of an extremely limited amount of fans, McGregor would look entirely flat, both literally and figuratively. After Poirier would go on to shock the world by KO-ing McGregor at the 2:32 mark of the 2nd round, McGregor would take much criticism for his fight style the he approached the fight with. Many would point out that he fought in a very flat-footed boxing stance and style, very different from his past light on the feet, karate style of fighting. Fans criticized him for falling too in love with boxing, forgetting that mixed martial arts is exactly that, a mix of many different styles of fighting, and not just boxing. McGregor would even admit himself that he was too focused on boxing in this fight.
The other main topic coming out of this fight was the leg kicks. Poirier would take advantage of McGregor’s flat-footed stance by chopping down his lead leg with plenty of leg kicks, which would go on to incredibly limit McGregor’s mobility, eventually leading to him being knocked out. McGregor and his team took lots of criticism for his seeming inability to check any of these leg kicks and seeming like he did not know what to do or how to deal with any of the kicks, as if he’d never seen them before. Many pointed that this was a sign that McGregor was finally paying for his long layoffs and that the game was catching up with him.
Chapter 3: UFC 264 July 10, 2021
Just 6 months later, McGregor and Poirier will face off for the third time to find out who is truly the better between the two men. It will be McGregor’s quickest turn around since 2016, making it the first time he’s fought twice in the same year since then. Poirier, who many now view as the rightful champion of the lightweight division, even turned down a title opportunity in favor of this immediate rematch with McGregor.
In what will be the first trilogy of both fighter’s careers, McGregor will undoubtedly be happy with the fact that he can once again fight in front a sold out Las Vegas crowd, otherwise known as his natural habitat.
UFC President Dana White has already said that whoever wins this fight will be next in line to fight for the lightweight title. This means that if McGregor can pull it off he will have a chance to once again hold the UFC lightweight belt, which White said earlier this week would solidify him as one of the all time greats if he is able to regain his old title.
Meanwhile, if Poirier is able to get the better of the trilogy, he will be able to solidify himself as a true superstar and one of the best currently in the game, as well as go on to fight for the undisputed lightweight title once again.
The question going into this one will be can McGregor fix what he needs to fix? As mentioned, he showed some major holes in his game last time around. After spending much of this fight camp abroad in Saudi Arabia instead of Ireland, was he able to seclude himself and fix what needs to be fixed, or has the game truly passed him by?