UFC superstar Conor McGregor announced on Wednesday that he will return to the Octagon to face Dustin Poirier as the main event of UFC 257 on January 23 and hopes the fight will take place at AT&T Stadium, the home of Dallas Cowboys.
Will the UFC, which is not hosting a live fan event since March 7, agree with the location? Texas allows up to 50% of the capacity of the seats.
McGregor wanted to fight three times in 2020, but the pandemic changed those plans. McGregor has not fought since his 40-second victory over Donald Kerone in January. He has since retired on Twitter, saying he faces Manny Pacquiao in a boxing match and called in many other UFC fighters, including Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov. All the public negotiations led to McGregor seeming to get everything he wanted in a high-ranking match that will attract the attention of the sports world on January 23.
If the fight comes together, Poirier will try to get some redemption for his knockout loss in the first round of McGregor in 2014 (Watch on ESPN +). In this light heavyweight bout, McGregor worked fast, knocking out Poirier with his left hand and finishing it with hammers in just under two minutes in the first round. There is no doubt that both fighters have evolved, and although the climax of McGregor’s victory over Poirier will continue to be played in the beginning, Poirier is a big challenge as McGregor tries to make his way back to the title.
But is this the right match for the biggest star in the sport? Is he taking too much of a risk by not waiting for a possible title shot against the winner of the October 24 match between Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaetje?
Ariel Helwani, Marc Raimondi, Phil Murphy and Jeff Wagenheim evaluate the match, looking at what is real or not, as we begin to prepare for a potential big lightweight fight.
Real or not: This is the right battle for Connor McGregor
Raymond: They didn’t sell me at first, 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. It was clear that he wanted a “season” of at least three fights – maybe four – in 2020. And so far he has fought only once, a quick knockout of Cerrone in January. Inaction is an obstacle for the UFC, which seemed wary of bringing McGregor back without crowds. There is a similar problem with paying to watch boxing for a long time. The investment rate has to make sense, and without the millions of dollars that come from ticket sales, is it worth having someone get paid as much as McGregor competes without that revenue?
McGregor knocked out Poirier quickly when they first met in 2014 at UFC 178, but that too could have been a lifetime ago. He was in the light heavyweight division and the two men have been fighting in the lightweight division (the middleweight division in McGregor’s case as well) for years. Poirier is one of the best lightweight weights in the world since 2017. Fans can’t claim that McGregor chooses manual easy competition here – Poirier is as legitimate as it gets. It could be said that McGregor against someone like Diaz will attract more money for the UFC. Probably so, but this trilogical battle will be there in the future. McGregor vs. Poirier is extremely competitive and will probably be action. MMA enthusiasts and casual fans should be thrilled by this.
Real or not: Conor McGregor risks unnecessarily shooting a title by fighting
Helwani: No. McGregor just wants to fight. I think he has made it clear at this stage. He is disappointed that he fought only 40 seconds in 2020 and itches Serbs to get back there. He also realizes that he is bigger than a belt. I think the contestant in it certainly wants to fight Nurmagomedov again, but the businessman in it also knows that he doesn’t have to wait for a title shot or worry about “risking” with a title shot. I also think he would be confident to enter this one, especially considering that he already has a victory over Poirier and knows that a victory will bring him a title anyway.
Real or not: With a victory, this battle will make Dustin Poirier shoot a title
Dustin Poirier explains how after his loss to Conor McGregor in 2014, he began to change his perspective on wrestling, making him happier overall in life.
Murphy: As for his next title fight, Poirier absolutely won the shot, defeating McGregor. However, his immediacy depends on the winner when Nurmagomedov and Gaetje combine the light belt – and how sincerely Nurmagomedov plans to retire after 30 battles.
Six of Poirier’s last seven matches – in which he is 5-1 (1 NC) – have come against former or current champions or interim champions. A win over McGregor would make seven out of eight and take Poirier’s star power to a whole new level. The UFC’s deepest division has no doubt that the summary. With two or three constant fights a year since his professional debut in 2009, there is also no doubt about Poirier’s level of activity.
The only exception is who holds the belt when Poirier hypothetically removes the Notorious. If Nurmagomedov holds the gold, is there a battle for the CAP in the last chapter? Could Nurmagomedov want to challenge Kamaru Usman in a super battle? Nurmagomedov holds all the cards and there hasn’t been much of Poirier’s loss in UFC 242 that requires a rematch.
If Gaethje wins, however, the door becomes much wider. Poirier knocked out Gaethje two years ago, which creates intrigue for a sequel. But will Gaethje give Nurmagomedov an immediate rematch? Shared governance makes it less than absolute meritocracy.
With a victory over McGregor, Poirier will fight next for the title. But exceptional unforeseen circumstances may force him to wait until the end of next year to do so.
Real or not: McGregor’s battle at AT&T Stadium would be the perfect way to welcome fans to a live UFC event in the United States
Wagenheim: No one in MMA creates capital-M Moments like McGregor and fans have always played a huge role in raising the bristles. There is nothing like an arena full of singing and chanting and Irish zealous flags that have flown into the city to support their man. Other fighters also have hordes of followers, but the scene in McGregor’s battle is simply a higher level of spectacle.
McGregor feeds the energy inside the hall so that he understands better than anyone the impact of organizing his performances in front of the fans. Why else would he insist that his return be played in a stadium that has more than 100,000 seats in non-pandemic times? Now, who knows what this event would look like – how many fans would be admitted and how travel restrictions and these economically difficult times could repel many who would like to be there.
There are many variables that need to be addressed – the most important of these, of course, is whether the UFC will agree to McGregor’s locale requirement. But if the battle happened in Dallas, how appropriate would that be. People in Lone Star State love to do great things and return to McGregor after a year out of the Octagon, in a battle against a legitimate lightweight contender, with a number of fans attending a UFC event for the first time since March 7 – that’s for sure it would be a spectacle the size of Texas.
Real or not: This is the main PPV event on the horizon that I expect the most
Raymond: This is difficult without knowing for sure what else the UFC may have in the November and December report. Can a deal be made between former friends Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington to settle their feud? If so, this would certainly be highly anticipated. Or what about something involving Israel Adesanya? He said he wanted to fight again before 2020.
McGregor vs. Poirier will certainly be at the top of the list, no matter what the UFC has up their sleeve. But I would probably say that the UFC lightweight match between Nurmagomedov and Gaetje is number one for me. This has a chance to be a truly incredible battle with high stakes, including Nurmagomedov’s undefeated record. Many experts believe that Gaethje matches Nurmagomedov better than anyone else – and I believe that there is some validity in this.
You should also take into account the fact that Nurmagomedov is still mourning the death of his father, the legendary Dagestani coach Abdulmanap. And we do not know how long Nurmagomedov will be, who talked about retirement. Every chance to see the Eagle is special. He is one of the greatest fighters in the history of sports, a master of his craft. Everyone knows he will fight, but no one can stop him. Gaethje, meanwhile, is the best provider of violence in sports and has been perfecting his technique over the past year. I absolutely can’t wait for UFC 254 on October 24th.