Editor’s Note: This has been updated with the news Thursday that Conor McGregor signed his fight deal to face Dustin Poirier on January 23.
UFC superstar Conor McGregor will return to the Octagon and face Dustin Poirier as the main event of UFC 257 on January 23. The site has yet to be announced, but UFC president Dana White suggested it could take place on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi.
McGregor wanted to fight three times in 2020, but the pandemic changed those plans. McGregor hasn’t fought since his 40-second win over Donald Cerrone in January. He has since retired on Twitter, said he was facing Manny Pacquiao in a boxing match, and called many other UFC fighters, including Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov. All the public negotiations resulted in McGregor seemingly getting what he wanted in a high-profile fight that will attract the attention of the sports world.
Poirier will try to get some redemption for his first-round knockout loss to McGregor in 2014 (Watch on ESPN +). In that featherweight fight, McGregor worked fast, knocking Poirier down with a left and finishing him off with hammer fists with just under two minutes left in the first round. There is no question that both fighters have evolved, and while the climax of McGregor’s victory over Poirier will continue to play out in the run-up, Poirier represents an intense challenge as McGregor tries to earn his way back to a title shot.
The lightweight title, however, is in a state of uncertainty. Nurmagomedov said he retired after beating Justin Gaethje on October 24. White said Nurmagomedov will fight again. The UFC has always wanted to book a rematch between Nurmagomedov and McGregor. Will you finally get your chance?
Ariel Helwani, Marc Raimondi and Phil Murphy evaluate what is real and what is not.
Real or not: If McGregor beats Poirier, don’t rule out the possibility of a rematch against Khabib.
Helwani: White continues to maintain that Nurmagomedov will fight again. Nurmagomedov is not refuting those claims, so, yes, I definitely think the UFC will explore the possibility of Nurmagomedov against McGregor 2 next year, if McGregor beats Poirier on January 23rd. After all, we know that was the UFC’s plan / hope. by 2020 before, well, you know the rest.
I mean, can you imagine if Nurmagomedov goes 30-0 against McGregor? No kidding, I think it could generate close to 3 million pay-per-view purchases, making it the best-selling pay-per-view in UFC history. It would be huge and the UFC would certainly explore it. The UFC knows how big this is. But first, McGregor has to get past Poirier, which is no easy task. Poirier is a much safer and better fighter than the one McGregor beat more than six years ago.
Real or not: this is the right fight for McGregor.
Raimondi: They didn’t sell me initially, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. First, any fight for McGregor is a good thing for the UFC and McGregor himself. He was clear that he wanted a “season” of at least three fights, maybe four, in 2020. And he ended up with just one. The inactivity has been a sticking point for the UFC, which seemed wary of bringing McGregor back without crowds.
McGregor knocked out Poirier quickly when they met, but that might as well have been a lifetime ago. It was at featherweight, and both men have now fought at lightweight (also welterweight, in McGregor’s case) for years. Poirier has been one of the best lightweights in the world since 2017. Fans can’t argue that McGregor is picking easy competition here – Poirier is as legit as he sounds. You could say that McGregor against someone like Diaz would get more money for the UFC. It probably is, but that trilogy fight will be there in the future. McGregor vs. Poirier is extremely competitive and it will likely be an action fight. Both MMA enthusiasts and casual fans should be excited about it.
Real or not: With a win, this fight will give Dustin Poirier a title shot
Murphy: In terms of his next fight being for a title, Poirier absolutely earns his chance by beating McGregor.
Six of Poirier’s last seven bouts, in which he is 5-1 (1 NC), have been against former or current champions or interim champions. Beating McGregor would be seven out of eight, and it would take Poirier’s star power to a whole new level. In the deepest division of the UFC, there’s no question about that resume. With two or three consistent fights a year since his professional debut in 2009, there is also no question about Poirier’s level of activity.
But Nurmagomedov has all the cards, and there wasn’t much about Poirier’s loss to Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 that required a rematch.