Conor McGregor

Conor McGregorJohn Locher/Associated Press

Before their trilogy fight Saturday at UFC 264, Conor McGregor repeatedly predicted he would “kill” Poirier, and that Poirier would be leaving the cage on a stretcher.

But once the smoke cleared in Las Vegas, it was McGregor who was leaving on a stretcher. 

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Dustin Poirier def. Conor McGregor at #UFC264: Best photos https://t.co/CWhzDBZ8WZ

Thanks to a freakish, gruesome leg break, Poirier (28-6 1 NC) received a doctor’s stoppage TKO victory of McGregor (22-6) after the conclusion of the first round of Saturday’s main event. McGregor threw a punch and the fell to the canvas after stepping back onto his left leg. Poirier moved in to land a few strikes, but the round ended a few seconds later. Though there was nothing remarkable about the sequence in real time, the replay clearly showed McGregor’s left leg snap under his weight. The doctor waved off the bout, and there’s your anticlimax. 

But there was a bit more drama to be had. The bad blood between these two did not only persist, but appeared to get worse, with the two shouting pleasantries at each other as doctors worked on McGregor’s leg, Poirier calling McGregor a “dirtbag” in his post-fight interview, and McGregor responding with something about Poirier’s wife being in his DMs?

I don’t know. It was one of those nights. And it looks like we’ll have at least one more of these nights in our future, with a fourth McGregor-Poirier now seemingly a done deal, especially after UFC prez Dana White gave the idea his blessing after the card was over. 

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White said he believes McGregor would have made it out of the round if not for the injury. He said when McGregor heals, a fourth fight with Poirier is likely. And Poirier is next for the title shot. #UFC264

But do we really need it? Not really. If necessary, put this one on the novelty track and give the same evergreen status as, say, McGregor vs. Nate Diaz (20-13) part three. Let’s put it in our back pocket and move on with our lives. There are better fights to make for both men, at least for the foreseeable future. (And all of this assumes McGregor will return to the cage, which of course we’re all hoping he will do, and sooner rather than later.)

I will say this: The McGregor-Poirier beef is real. The two couldn’t even agree on how McGregor’s injury actually happened. 

Dustin Poirier (left) kicks McGregor

Dustin Poirier (left) kicks McGregorJohn Locher/Associated Press

“He fractured it on one of the checks [of a leg kick] at the beginning of the fight, then it broke on the punch,” Poirier told broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage after the fight. “When I pointed at him at the beginning of the fight, that’s when I checked a good kick, and I bet that’s when it cracked … then just on the twisting motion of the punch, that’s what finished it.”

When Rogan knelt down for a few words with McGregor as the doctors stabilized his leg, McGregor, beside himself with pain and frustration, denied Poirier’s account before yelling out, “This is not over!”

Poirier likely wouldn’t have a problem with that, as he went on in some length about what he viewed as McGregor’s over-the-top trash talk and some dirty moves in the cage. 

“There’s no holds barred with the trash talk, but murder is something you don’t clown around with,” Poirier said. “This guy was saying he was gonna murder me and all this stuff, saying he was going to kill me, that I was gonna leave here in a coffin. You don’t talk like that to people, man. … He was putting his fingers in my glove to try to pull me down for upkicks. …This guy’s a dirtbag.” 

Ouch.

In the meantime, hopefully Poirier does get that shot at reigning lightweight champ Charles Oliveira (31-8 1 NC). The smart money says that one happens first, as Poirier has never captured non-interim gold before despite an oft-stated desire to do so. Yes, another bout with McGregor would be a massive payday, but Poirier has already snagged two of those (their first bout was in 2014, before McGregor’s star really took off). 

So while a fourth McGregor bout will be viable essentially indefinitely for Poirier, title fights are a little more ephemeral.

John Locher/Associated Press

It’s clear McGregor wants another chance, and badly. He and his supporters may want to believe that Saturday’s win was fluky, but the truth is Poirier had the edge after one action-packed round. According to official UFC stats, Poirier landed 36 significant strikes to McGregor’s 27. He also deftly escaped a serious McGregor guillotine choke attempt while hitting on one of two takedown shots and outslugging McGregor in a prolonged ground-and-pound sequence.

Assuming Poirier faces Oliveira next, where does that leave McGregor? First and foremost, he’ll have a lengthy rehab period. No telling how long it will be. But instead of handing him Poirier on a silver platter upon his return, how about making him earn it?

This is now a guy who’s 3-4 in MMA over the past five years. You could pencil him in for contenders like Justin Gaethje (22-3) or Beneil Dariush (21-4-1)—both very interesting matchups—or you could move him even farther down for a winnable action fight with, say, Dan Hooker (20-10). If it’s McGregor, it will sell. That’s not the issue. The issue is what McGregor has earned in the cage of late. Although the leg break was unfortunate, business is business, and the truth is McGregor hasn’t consistently delivered in years.

Joe Rogan (left) interviews McGregor

Joe Rogan (left) interviews McGregorJeff Bottari/Getty Images

There’s no reason for McGregor to rush back. He’ll be fine. And there’s no reason to rush another bout with Poirier in particular.

In a nutshell: This really isn’t something the world needs to see unless McGregor demonstrates otherwise. It probably will happen, because ultimately both men want to settle this score and it would make everyone money. If McGregor does want it sooner rather than later, he will have one supporter on his side, someone for whom Saturday’s result felt just about perfect. 

“Karma’s not a b—h,” Poirier told Rogan after the fight. “She’s a mirror.”

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