Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

What’s next after Conor McGregor’s shocking second-round KO loss to Dustin Poirier

It did not take long for McGregor to go down.
It did not take long for McGregor to go down.
Photo: Getty Images

Conor McGregor was so tranquil that, as Dustin Poirier entered the octagon singing to “The Boss” by James Brown, he pointed his index fingers toward the Etihad Arena rafters and danced.

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It was only moments later that he seemingly abandoned said relaxed nature and opened up the five-round bout with a thumping straight left hand just two seconds into round one. And that was after he charged halfway across the octagon to pressure Poirier immediately. The two exchanged combinations, McGregor seemingly always concluding with the advantage, even appearing to spark trash talking between the two while pressed against the cage late in round one.

And then, Poirier calf-kicked McGregor into debilitation in round two, uncorking a final flurry that would shock the mixed martial arts and the illegal-streaming worlds. The fight ended with a second-round stoppage, which is now being memed into oblivion. (By the time you read this, it might already be old.)

Regarding fight fallout, we’ll touch on three key points.

First, stop this Jake Paul shit.

Unfortunately, McGregor’s loss to Poirier might increase the odds of the circus bout happening. Paul’s labeling himself as a boxer, and while McGregor is a mixed martial artist, his MMA style is primarily on his feet, where the entirety of a Paul bout would potentially be. It’s apparent that general well-being isn’t of much concern here, but if McGregor is seriously going to fight Paul, regardless if it were boxing or MMA rules, it would go much worse than Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s debut KO over a fighter named Katie Castro, who hasn’t competed since. Or we could just continue to encourage celebrity combat sports — or worse, professionals versus celebrities within those combat sports — until we inevitably get an incredibly damaging injury.

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Second, no, McGregor’s not “done.” He says he plans on returning to a consistent activity level in order to build back into championship form. Before the loss, which is his third in sixth fights, McGregor hadn’t competed in just over one calendar year, and that bout was a 40-second dispatching of Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. The famous Khabib Nurmagomedov bout of October 2018 — in which McGregor lost by submission in round four — was his last full sanctioned bout.

We (y’all) tend to write off fighters following their defeats. Whether or not that’s a culture Floyd Mayweather established while accumulating a spotlighted 50-0 record is up for debate. But losses in MMA aren’t as devastating to your career as they are in boxing, even at the UFC level, unless they accumulate. A testament to this is McGregor himself, who became the most profitable star in MMA history despite entering the UFC at 12-2, with both losses being by first-round submission in Dublin, Ireland-based bouts. McGregor’s next move is too early to call, but it’s probably the best time to initiate a third fight with Nate Diaz. Though he should probably find some legal resolution in his personal life first.

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Third and finally, respect Poirier, who earned this victory. For the casual observers, the victory was an upset, but not one of Douglas-Tyson proportions, nor was it even McGregor’s most shocking defeat. Poirier is an entirely different fighter in 2021 than he was from the man whom McGregor TKO’d in 106 seconds in 2014. Since that loss, Poirier’s been 11-2, including one no-contest. Of his victories, he’s defeated former (or in some cases, future) world champions Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje (interim), Eddie Alvarez, Max Holloway, and now, McGregor. His most recent loss came to the previously mentioned Nurmagomedov in September of 2019 for the Lightweight World Title. Nobody beats Khabib, though.

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A Nurmagomedov return has been speculated since he retired 29-0 following the death of his father last year, naturally has been the case since he’s one away from the elusive 30th bout, and that’s logically the next step for Poirier. It isn’t something to count on, though. Michael Chandler, who arrived from Bellator and smoked Dan Hooker in round one during the co-main event, included Poirier (as well as McGregor and Nurmagomedov) in his list of callouts.

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For McGregor, we could expect him to stay busy and even main event his next bout despite a .500 record going back to March of 2016. For Poirier, it should be a shot at the UFC Lightweight Title, but the retired Nurmagomedov hasn’t officially vacated it yet. For now, just listen to his wife and don’t doubt him.