It may be some time off yet, but MMA fans are eagerly looking ahead to UFC 264 in July. Taking place at the T-Mobile Arena in Nevada, its headliner will be the mega-hyped trilogy fight between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, and it’s safe to say the appetite for the bout is fierce. Sports journalist Aaron Bronsteter reported that pre-sale tickets were on the market for up to $10,000 each, while McGregor himself triumphantly tweeted that all tickets had “sold out in seconds”.
UFC 264: Is the Poirier rematch the last shot for McGregor?
Of course, any fight featuring McGregor – undeniably the biggest MMA star on the planet – will be big news. But there’s special anticipation over this rubber match with Poirier, in part because their rivalry goes back almost seven years, and in part because there are question marks over McGregor’s future as a fighter. Frankly, McGregor himself has fuelled the doubts – back in June 2020, he’d sensationally tweeted that he was retiring from fighting. “The game just does not excite me, and that’s that,” McGregor explained in an interview. “All this waiting around. There’s nothing happening. I’m going through opponent options, and there’s nothing really there at the minute. There’s nothing that’s exciting me.”
McGregor came out of “retirement” to face Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 in January 2021, and it was not an auspicious return to the Octagon. The Louisiana native clobbered the Irish superstar in the second round, cleverly unbalancing him by targeting his legs before securing a technical knockout with a flurry of punches that left the Notorious stunned.
“I’m gutted, it’s a tough one to swallow,” said McGregor. “I felt stronger than him, but his leg kicks were good. I didn’t adjust. My leg was badly compromised, I’ve never experienced those low calf kicks, and I wasn’t as comfortable as I needed to be.”
It was a pivotal moment for Poirier, who proved he was no longer intimidated by McGregor’s aura of invincibility. “The first time I was a deer in the headlights,” he said. “This time I was just fighting another man who bleeds like me.” That, of course, was a reference to their first fight back in 2014, when McGregor beat Poirier in 106 seconds, putting himself on course to become the sport’s most-talked-about star. As journalist Nick Peet has put it, that first Poirier bout transformed McGregor “from being an Irish commodity to a global commodity”.
This is the hard-won status that’s on the line for McGregor come July. What are his chances of bagging an overall 2-1 victory over Poirier? While it appears to be a toss-up, bookies seem to have McGregor as the slight favourite, according to odds sourced by TopRatedCasinos Ireland. While there’s no disputing McGregor’s raw power in the Octagon, his relative inactivity in recent years will be a cause for concern among his fans – his only win since 2018 was against Donald Cerrone in January 2020.
Of course, Conor being Conor, his personality has loomed large over the sport throughout these years of uncertainty. There has already been plenty of high-energy notoriety around the Poirier rematch, with the rivals having a Twitter spat over McGregor allegedly reneging on a promise to donate $500,000 to Poirier’s Good Fight Foundation charity. The American tweeted that McGregor had effectively ghosted on the charity, prompting the Irishman to reply that he was waiting to know more about exactly how the donation would be spent.
Poirier has since smoothed things over, and it’s clear that the match is just as important to the Diamond as it is to the Notorious. Indeed, Poirier boldly turned down a lightweight title fight against Charles Oliveira in favour of the trilogy bout with McGregor. This has been lauded as a smart move by commentators – after all, while winning the title would be an important accolade, beating McGregor a second time would do far more for Poirier’s media profile (and, frankly, his bank balance).
So, there’s a lot on the line for both parties. If McGregor is feeling the pressure, he’s certainly not showing it, most recently tweeting that he was “thinking about buying Manchester United” – not exactly the words of a man who sees anything but lavish success on the horizon. But perhaps we should give the final word to McGregor’s manager, Audie Attar, who’s said that “the one thing about Conor McGregor is it’s not all about wins and losses, it’s about the journey.” And, wherever that journey takes him in the lead-up to July and beyond, it’ll be fascinating to watch.
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