Poirier v McGregor 3: ‘UFC 264 loss could signal beginning of the end for McGregor’

UFC 264: Conor McGregor kicks out at Dustin Poirier during press conference face-off
Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas Date: Saturday, 10 July Time: Main card 03:00 BST Sunday, 11 July
Coverage: Follow live text commentary and listen to live radio commentary of McGregor’s fight on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sounds, BBC Sport website and app from 03:00 BST.

“Me and Conor need to do this a third time, we owe it to each other.”

After avenging his 2014 loss to McGregor in January, the lure of settling the score with the UFC’s biggest star proved too tempting for Dustin Poirier to resist.

Now the number one-ranked lightweight will complete his trilogy with the former two-weight world champion at UFC 264.

Commentator John Gooden was joined on the BBC’s latest UFC podcast by broadcaster Nick Peet and Welsh UFC fighter Jack Shore to discuss a fight which “could signal the beginning of the end for Conor McGregor the superstar”.

“It could break the UFC pay-per-view record,” said Peet. “People are really buying into the fact this could be Conor’s last dance.

“If he loses, people in the sport realise he falls out of contention for the UFC lightweight championship.

“And people outside the sport, the casual fans that tune in just for Conor, if they were to see him lose back-to-back, his star would certainly dwindle.”

What has McGregor changed since the rematch?

After a heated build-up to the first fight between McGregor and Poirier at featherweight, it was a different story with the rematch at Abu Dhabi’s Fight Island.

The pair showed mutual respect, with Peet watching a “new, calm and collected Conor” walking around “without a care in the world”.

“There was no kind of animosity in him, he seemed so relaxed,” he said. “I think once he got inside the octagon he was maybe a bit too calm and collected.

“But what version of Conor McGregor is this going to be? How many times can this guy reinvent himself?”

McGregor lived on a yacht with his family at Fight Island. Now he’s left them back in Ireland for his latest training camp, at a specially-constructed gym in California.

“He seems like the old McGregor,” said Shore. “He’s gone away, isolated himself and we’ve not seen a massive amount behind the scenes. It’s all very secretive.

“I’ve got a lot more anticipation for this one because I genuinely don’t know which Conor will turn up.”

Table showing age, wins and losses for Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor
McGregor has won one of his three MMA fights since beating Eddie Alvarez to become the UFC’s first two-weight world champion in 2017

Now the Irishman’s bravado is back, along with the name calling and trash talking.

“He’s so good with his words and the mental warfare that it seems to me, when you take that away, you’re missing a trick,” said Gooden.

This week ‘the Notorious’ has even claimed Poirier’s wife Jolie contacted him on social media and chanted “Jolie’s wife” at the American during the pre-fight press conference.

“He’s turning the heat up,” said Shore. “They’re tactics we’ve seen from him before. It worked the first time (against Poirier), and against the likes of Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez.

“If it gives him a chance of getting inside his head and making Dustin a bit too emotional, who are we to say he shouldn’t try it? How effective it’ll be on the back of a knockout loss to the same guy, I’m not sure.”

Spared from the “media circus” that Peet says McGregor usually whips up, Poirier carried out his game plan to the letter in January.

A series of calf kicks compromised McGregor’s lead leg and Poirier latched onto an opening to knock him out in the second round.

“I think he overlooked Dustin Poirier,” said Peet. “He was looking past him and lining up a fight with (boxer) Manny Pacquiao. He’s certainly not doing that this time.

“You can’t compare the circus McGregor can create to anyone else. It’s all part of the game.

“He’s got to play those mind games and make Poirier feel uncomfortable before the first bell, that’s how he wins the first round.”

What’s at stake for Poirier and McGregor?

Poirier turned down the opportunity to fight for the vacant lightweight title, allowing Charles Oliveira to claim the belt by beating Michael Chandler in May.

Instead, Poirier’s gambled on taking a lucrative ‘rubber match’ with McGregor, with the winner expected to challenge Oliveira before the end of 2021.

“I’d like to think I’d chose the world-title fight but the amount of money he’ll make will probably set his family and grandkids up for life,” said Shore.

“It’s such a gamble for Poirier,” added Peet. “If he loses, would he ever get the chance to fight for the belt again?”

Gooden replied: “I think he’s done enough [already] so that he wouldn’t go right to the back of the queue.”

Picture of Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor with a quote from Jack Shore saying 'I don't know which Conor will turn up'

If McGregor loses, Shore says he may choose to complete a trilogy with Nate Diaz, give WWE a try or take another boxing crossover, having previously fought Floyd Mayweather in 2017.

“Conor’s not come back for a pay cheque, he’s come back for glory, for GOAT status, and to prove a point to himself,” said Peet.

“If he lost, I’d like to see him fight Diaz again, or Jorge Masvidal for the ‘BMF’ title, but could Conor live with being a sideshow?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he did call it the end. That’s what makes the fight even more intriguing. Conor knows there’s a fine line here – either the roadshow continues or it’s ‘baby, we did it and I’m gone’.”

‘People have dismissed Conor’s ability to come back’

McGregor knocked out Poirier inside two minutes in the first fight, before Poirier claimed a second-round knockout in the rematch. How about third time round?

“McGregor’s got so many tools but didn’t get to use them in the last fight,” said Shore. “He’s going to come out fast. He knows he needs to take Dustin out early. If it goes late, it’s Dustin.”

Peet added: “I think Conor realises what’s at stake and I believe the very best McGregor beats the very best Poirier. I think it’ll be a second-round knockout for Conor.”

Gooden couldn’t pick a winner but predicts “it’s going to be a fantastic fight”.

“A lot of people have dismissed Conor’s ability to come back,” he said. “I believe in his coaching staff and the science he’s adopted to give his body the best chance if the fight does go deep. I think he’s ticked a lot of things off.

“But Poirier only has to build on that last performance. He’s a very difficult man to take out.”

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