McGregor seeking revenge against Poirier

Promoter Dana White keeps Conor McGregor away from opponent Dustin Poirier before their UFC bout.
Promoter Dana White keeps Conor McGregor away from opponent Dustin Poirier before their UFC bout.

Conor McGregor was soundly beaten by Dustin Poirier less than six months ago, but that doesn't seem like enough time for the Irish superstar to patch all the holes Poirier punched in his game.

When they complete their rivalry trilogy Saturday night in the main event of UFC 264, Poirier (27-6) will enter the cage as a better-rounded, more tested fighter than McGregor (22-5), who is competing in mixed martial arts for only the fourth time in nearly five years.

Yet McGregor's famed punching power - and the world's memory of his meteoric rise through his sport - remains tantalising enough to create uncertainty in the minds of millions of fight fans.

McGregor has done the improbable before, and he'll probably never lose the ability to stoke his fans' imaginations.

"This is my bread and butter," McGregor said. "This is what wakes me up in the morning with fire in my belly. ... I love to come in here, defy the odds, do the unthinkable and put on a show."

That sounds like the old Conor, the former plumber who conquered the MMA world with two heavy hands and an unmatched gift of the gab.

But will the same man get out of his luxury car at T-Mobile Arena? Can a self-described "fat-cat" multi-millionaire return to his feral, ferocious form for another electrifying victory?

Poirier knows the possibility exists, and it's reason enough to watch the conclusion to this three-fight epic that began with McGregor's first-round knockout of Poirier in 2014 and continued with Poirier's second-round stoppage of McGregor in Abu Dhabi.

"I have a healthy fear going into every fight," Poirier said. "I know the dangers. I know what this guy can do."

The winner will get a crack at the next lightweight title shot against champion Charles Oliveira, says UFC President Dana White.

Anyone who saw their January bout knows how comfortably Poirier handled McGregor's strengths. In the rematch, McGregor must either do his thing much better, or he must adapt and evolve - something he hasn't done successfully over the past five years.

Poirier highlighted weaknesses and exploited opportunities in the brash, pugnacious approach that made McGregor the biggest name in combat sports.

Patiently implementing his game plan, Poirier battered McGregor with painful leg kicks before finishing him with fists, stopping the former two-division UFC champion on punches for the first time in McGregor's career.

McGregor is no stranger to crossroads moments, but this two-bout series with Poirier could define what's left in the remarkable career of a fighter who turns 33 next Wednesday.

If he loses again, McGregor's more cogent supporters would be forced to acknowledge he has become more of a spectacle fighter than a championship contender. He would be excused for retiring for a fourth time - and for actually sticking to it this time.

But if McGregor somehow wins, his next bout would be for a title. He would be back in legitimate contention for an honour that isn't built on his past achievements.

Poirier is taking his own step backward to move forward: He could have waited for the title shot at Oliveira, who only won the 155-pound belt in May.

Instead, Poirier agreed to this highly lucrative trilogy fight with the obvious risk of a loss that would derail his hopes of winning an undisputed title belt.

Australian Associated Press