EDITORIAL

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On Saturday, July 10, the legacies of both Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor are on the line.

Most UFC fans know the lore—Poirier and McGregor first fought at UFC 178 in 2014. That fight lasted only 1:46 before McGregor TKO’d Poirier. Fast-forward seven years, and the two strikers geared up for a lucrative and heated rematch.

As with most McGregor fights, even the most casual MMA fans tuned into UFC 257 for Poirier v.s McGregor II. After an even first round, where Poirier landed but couldn’t hold a takedown and McGregor landed heavy but couldn’t sleep Poirier, Poirier started to chop away at McGregor’s lead leg.

Early in round two, McGregor’s leg started to bruise and blister; but, he kept stalking forward, landing solid shots. Although McGregor was leading the dance for most of the fight, around the three-minute mark of round two, Poirier circled out and was able to apply the pressure. Once he got McGregor’s back to the cage, Poirier landed a big left, then a flurry of punches, and eventually dropped the Irishman with a deadly right uppercut. While the series was tied 1-1, a trilogy was not an automatic booking. Poirier had a decision to make—a chance to fight for the vacant lightweight title or a massive payday with a trilogy fight against McGregor. Poirier went with the Jerry Maguire approach, show me the money!

Although likely to be a large sum for both men, money is not the only motivation for Poirier vs. McGregor III. Legacy is also at stake. A top-ranked contender for years, Poirier has recent wins over Pettis, Gaethje, Alvarez, Holloway, Hooker, and McGregor. But, in a division dominated by Khabib, “The Diamond” lost to the undefeated “Eagle” and has never been the undisputed champion. Meanwhile, McGregor has held both the featherweight and lightweight championship belts, winning them in 2015 and 2016, respectively. However, he never defended the featherweight belt and lost the lightweight belt due to inactivity. So, despite being a two-division champ, there is still controversy surrounding his legacy. If he loses this fight, he’ll be 1-3 in his last four fights, which leaves him in the fog of fighters unable to reach the promised land. Money may be the headline; but, years from now, the legacy will be the tagline of this trilogy.

Is a perennial contender but never undisputed champion worthy of being considered an all-time great? Is a two-division champion who never successfully defended his gold one of the best to do it, or was he just a one-hit-wonder? Poirier vs. McGregor 3 will help clarify and solidify the legacy for both lightweights. Both men will enter the octagon for UFC 264. One will leave victorious and will likely soon have a title shot. Meanwhile, the other man will leave, losing the trilogy fight and, possibly, his legacy. Conor McGregor will take full advantage of the UFC’s weight rules to scale more for his trilogy bout with Dustin Poirier than he did for their January rematch.

The promotion allows fighters taking part in non-title bouts to weigh in one pound lighter than for bouts when a belt is on the line. And six months ago, McGregor scaled ‘championship weight’ when he registered 155lb, one pound lighter than Poirier.

But the Irishman has no plans to strip any more weight from his frame than is necessary ahead of Friday’s weigh-in.

Asked about not talking to his stool after the first round of the rematch, “It was nice to showcase that my cardiovascular abilities are improving, but there will be none of that in this fight. “Nothing is being given for free here, and there were a lot of freebies in the last fight.. 155lb on the scale, that’s going to be 156lb on this scale.

“Free shots in the octagon, not taking the stool, etc. All of these things are gone; I’m taking everything now.”

McGregor’s frame had changed considerably since his early years in the UFC when he made the featherweight limit of 145lb. He came into the premier promotion, having fought at lightweight in Cage Warriors, where he also won both 145lb and 155lb belts.

But he was forced to cut down to secure a shot at the big time, and the Dubliner went on to KO Jose Aldo in 13 seconds to win featherweight gold.

He moved up to lightweight to defeat champion Eddie Alvarez and fought three times at 170lb, swapping victories with Nate Diaz before knocking out Donald Cerrone within 40 seconds. And McGregor will remain at lightweight for at least one more fight – assuming he exacts revenge on Poirier.

He has already earmarked the 70,000-capacity Allegiant Stadium for a title fight against champion Charles Oliveira later this year.

And UFC president Dana White all but confirmed that either McGregor or Poirier would be next for the Brazilian. “He’ll go down as one of the greatest of all time [if he wins back the belt],” White told ESPN. “To have lost the belt and gone through the things that happened to him personally, professionally… to come back and beat the No. 1 contender, who just beat him, and then fight for the title and win? Financially, it’s off the charts. Professionally, it’s off the charts.”

On the other hand, Poirier has never won a full title in the UFC, having lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2019.

He did hold the interim lightweight title, having outpointed Max Holloway but suffered the same fate at the hands of Nurmagomedov as McGregor did a year earlier. Donald Trump and Justin Bieber among celebrities to attend Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 3. Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier’s trilogy fight has attracted a star-studded list of celebrities, including former US President Donald Trump.

McGregor will face off with Poirier for the third time in the main event of UFC 264 in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The bout will take place in front of a capacity 20,000 crowd at Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena, the same venue where the Irish superstar faced Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match in 2017.

Donald Trump and Justin Bieber among celebrities to attend Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirier 3

McGregor is regarded as the biggest draw in mixed martial arts history. At the same time, Poirier has assembled an eye-catching record in recent years, so it’s no surprise their trilogy bout will be watched by A-listers aplenty.

Trump will be ringside, while pop star Justin Bieber, actress Megan Fox and her rapper boyfriend Machine Gun Kelly will also attend.

McGregor voiced his support for Trump’s presidency the day after Joe Biden assumed office in January.

“Phenomenal President,” said the 32-year-old of Trump. “Quite possibly the USA Goat [Greatest of all time]. Most certainly one of them anyway, as he sits atop the shoulders of many amazing giants that came before him.

“No easy feat. Early stages of the term also. Incredible. Congrats and Happy Martin Luther King Jr. day America.”

McGregor also criticized the anti-Trump rallies which took place in New York City in 2017.

Meanwhile, musician Travis Barker, reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., comedian Dave Chappelle and Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant are also expected to be in the crowd for McGregor vs. Poirier 3.

As well as hosting McGregor’s lucrative bout with Mayweather, the T-Mobile Arena was also the setting for three of his fights in the UFC.

McGregor fought Nate Diaz for the second time at the Paradise, Nevada venue, avenging his defeat at UFC 196 in 2016 with a majority decision victory over the American at UFC 202 later that year.

The Crumlin native returned to the T-Mobile Arena in 2018 for a lightweight title fight against Russian sensation Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The fight – which McGregor lost via submission – was bout a whopping 2.4million times on pay-per-view, making it McGregor’s most-watched UFC bout.

The Irishman fared better when he returned to the venue – which is the home of NHL side Vegas Golden Knights – to face Donald’ Cowboy’ Cerrone in January.

McGregor took just 40 seconds to defeat the American veteran via TKO after landing a barrage of shoulder strikes in the opening stages.

He then traveled to Abu Dhabi to face Poirier in January this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, marking the first time he fought outside the US since 2014.

So he is sure to receive a lavish welcome on his return to the iconic Vegas strip.