To be notorious means you’re famous or widely known for doing bad deeds. In other words, an apropos nickname for Ireland’s MMA star Conor McGregor.
He will step back inside the octagon as the headline act at UFC 264 in Las Vegas on the night of July 10, where he faces fellow Lightweight cage fighter Dustin Poirier for the third time. This is the rubber match between the pair, with each holding a previous victory over the other.
Trilogies aren’t as rare in MMA as you might think. Just last summer, Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier concluded their feud over the UFC Heavyweight Championship after squaring off three times in the space of just over two years. There is a somewhat longer arc to McGregor and Poirier, however.
They first met at UFC 178 in the fall of 2014 with “The Notorious” recording a first-round TKO victory. From there, McGregor went on to win both the Featherweight and Lightweight titles, also trading losses with Nate Diaz, as covered by the reportertimes.com, at Welterweight along the way.
A rematch between the Irishman and Deep South native Poirier headlined UFC 257 in January of this year. “The Diamond” avenged his earlier loss to McGregor with a TKO stoppage halfway through round two, and that seemingly established Poirier as the number one contender for the Lightweight belt.
The division has always been a fluid one and, with titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov stepping away from the octagon and vacating the strap in the process, a new champion was crowned. Rather than wait for the McGregor and Poirier trilogy to come, Dana White had Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler fight for the title at UFC 262 in May with the Brazilian coming out on top.
Golden Opportunity Awaits Winner
As if extra spice was needed to McGregor and Poirier’s third meeting, the winner will be in line for a shot at Oliveira somewhere down the line. The Lightweight division on its own highlights how international MMA has become thanks to the global platform that UFC provides. Besides a European like McGregor, and many North and South American fighters, there is also the improving Iranian-born Beneil Dariush.
Dariush has climbed up the UFC rankings into the number three spot, so could also be a future title contender. His success off the back of a seven-fight winning streak is helping to raise the profile of combat sports in the country of his birth and the general Middle East area. Just as McGregor helped popularize MMA in the Emerald Isle, the same is now happening in other regions.
A knock-on effect of this is increased betting on combat sports around the world. Much like boxing, you can wager on the winner of MMA fights with other main markets at sites like asiabet.org, including method of victory, props, and even round betting. Top tips for successful wagering on UFC include knowing which fighters like Dariush are up-and-coming, so they may have more favorable odds than big names and established stars.
With fresher faces staking their own claims for title opportunities, McGregor must capitalize on this and have the last word in his feud with Poirier. Going into the trilogy rubber match, the Irishman is only fifth in the UFC Lightweight rankings below Dariush but sandwiched between two American fighters in Chandler and Tony Ferguson.
Something We Haven’t Seen Before to Follow
The incentive is there for both McGregor and Poirier. Neither has fought Oliveira before, so that almost guarantees an exciting bout for MMA fans in the future. What makes the Lightweight division so compelling is that many of the major players in it are in their early 30s. That means they are all pretty much in their prime.
First McGregor and then the now-retired Nurmagomedov became the face of the division. Oliveira will be watching the Poirier trilogy reach its conclusion closely, scouting his likely next opponent in the process. That fight to come could make or break the Brazilian’s chances of legitimizing his title reign.
Just like current UFC Light Heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz, Oliveira didn’t defeat the previous titleholder for the belt. This always leaves an asterisk against a fighter’s name as, even though they earned the title in the octagon, they didn’t take it from their predecessor. Nobody has ever been a two-time Lightweight Champion in the premier MMA promotion, so getting that opportunity could serve as powerful motivation for McGregor.
Poirier has only been the interim champ before, coming up short in a unification bout against Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 back in 2019. McGregor doesn’t come into this number one contender’s fight with him in the best form, losing two of his last three and three of his last six outings in the octagon, so must do better if he wants to realize the ambition of climbing back to the summit of MMA.