Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor face off for a third time this weekend in Vegas, writes Nick Peet.
Two rounds. Conor McGregor has two rounds, or ten minutes, to retain his status as prizefighting’s number one pay-per-view draw.
No belts are required as MMA’s brightest star heads into his trilogy fight with Dustin Poirier at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night at UFC 264.
But having competed just three times in almost five years – winning just once, and in just 40 seconds – form and momentum is almost certainly an adversary of the one-time two-weight UFC champion.
McGregor, 32, spent 14 months reveling in the aftermath of his multi-millionaire dollar boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr before jumping back in at the deep end against Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018. Four rounds in, he was tapping out.
It was another 15 months before he picked up that quickfire win over ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, then another year on the sidelines before his rematch with Poirier on Fight Island in January, where he suffered his first ever knockout defeat.
Compare that against McGregor’s glory years, when he was fighting three times per year, collecting belts, bonus checks and breaking PPV records with every ring walk.
In the same five-year time frame Conor has won one fight and lost two, rival Poirier has competed nine times inside the Octagon, losing just once to common foe and former champ Nurmagomedov.
Unlike McGregor, ‘The Diamond’ is absolutely in the form of his life. The 32-year-old from Louisiana has bagged seven performance bonuses in this current campaign, briefly holding the interim 155lb belt with wins over a handful of former champions and leading contenders.
Any trepidation Poirier harboured after being knocked out by McGregor in just 40 seconds back in 2014 also took around two minutes to dissipate on Fight Island – once his legs stayed under him after being cracked on the chin.
Psychologically, Piorier is in a completely different place now than he was then. As long as he navigates fight week and the grueling demands of the fans, media and broadcasters, once he steps foot into that Octagon, he’s facing a man he bettered six months ago.
That’s why he has agreed to jump straight back in with the money instead of contesting UFC gold. But he’s gambling with his legacy also.
McGregor is a fist fighter who carries his power early. Not one of his 20 career finishes in 22 wins have come outside of the first two rounds. He’s got to bring Poirier onto that left hand early and pounce on the finish. And he’s got 10 minutes to do it.
Dustin can afford to take things a little slower. Included in his 20 stoppages in 27 career wins, are fight-ending finishes in the championship rounds. His gas tank has never been questioned.
Whatever the outcome, get ready for something special. Neither man is ever in a dull fight and when Conor McGregor headlines in Las Vegas, something unforgettable is all but guaranteed.