Dispatches

Dustin Poirier targets Lightweight title after shock win over Conor McGregor at UFC 257

Dustin Poirier (right), landing the knockout punches on Conor Mcgregor during the UFC 257 main event at Abu Dhabi's Etihad Arena, January 2021.
Abhimanyu Hazarika 25 January 2021 10:51 IST
Updated: 25 January 2021 11:14 IST

The experts and fans didn’t give him a chance, his opponent’s coach didn’t see him lasting long, and the betting odds were truly against him before Dustin Poirier began trading blows with Conor McGregor in the UFC octagon. Pulling off a second-round technical knockout (TKO), Poirier became the first man in history to knock out the Irishman in a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) contest.

It was not the first event at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island hosted by the MMA promotion UFC (short for Ultimate Fighting Championship). But it was the first after the coronavirus pandemic began to have limited fans in attendance, about 2000 of them thronging the Etihad Arena on January 23, largely to support McGregor, or the Notorious One as he is popularly known.

Some hard-hitting kicks to the calf and a takedown later, Poirier landed a flurry of punches to knock down McGregor before the referee, Herb Dean, stopped the fight. The victory saw him grab a ‘Performance of the Night’ honours, which comes with a $50,000 bonus.

There was all class post the event though, as both fighters, now tied at 1-1 in their fight record against one another, welcomed a third bout. Poirier told the media at the press conference after the pay-per-view event that he is open to a third fight, but this time for the Lightweight (155 pounds) title. Speaking to McGregor after the fight, he said he took his coach’s word seriously when he was told the scars of their short previous encounter would never leave him. He took those words to improve his game since that bout six years ago.

UFC President Dana White, when asked about the possibility of an impending title fight, said it is possible given that now-retired Khabib Nurmagomedov, the current Lightweight Champion, does not want to hold up the division (that is, stop title fights from taking place). Khabib, undefeated in combat sports, has said he finds no competition to his liking in the division at present.

On McGregor, White said that this is his Rocky III moment, and there could only be two possibilities seen – he returns hungrier or calls it quits.

McGregor expressed being at a loss and said the knockout was hard to take, praising Poirier for the skills that had him end up with a ‘dead’ calf. He took to social media to post: “Thanks for the support everyone! Was not my night/morning in there but a great contest to improve on. I’m excited at the blockbuster trilogy I now have on my hands. Dustin is a hell of a competitor and I look forward to going again. Elevating the leg and the spirit on my way home!”

Before their match, McGregor had said he feels he is in the best shape of his life and hopes to compete 7 times over the next year and a half. This was McGregor’s second loss out of his 3 matches in the Lightweight division of the UFC, with his previous victory coming over Donald Cerrone at Welterweight (170 pounds), in January last year.

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