US outsider Dustin Poirier rocked the mixed martial arts world by beating Irish superstar Conor McGregor legs before knocking him out at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi.
“I’m happy but I’m not surprised. I put the work in, ”Poirier on Sunday after the referee stepped in after two minutes and 32 seconds of the second round to save McGregor from further damage after being abandoned by a fierce combination of punches.
Poirier, 32, was ranked second in the flyweight division before fighting, but was still ranked as a big underdog by the bookies to beat his fourth-ranked opponent, arguably the most famous fighter the sport has. seen.
The controversial McGregor, known as “Notorious,” was returning to the Octagon for the first time in a year and was hoping for a repeat of the pair’s first contest in 2014, which he won by TKO after just 109 seconds.
But Poirier, who now has a UFC record of 27-6, used low kicks in an effort to put McGregor (22-5) out of his usual fierce stand-up game – and it worked.
“First of all, I want to say that Conor took this result professionally. We’re 1-1 and maybe we’ll have to do it again, ”Poirier said, hinting at the prospect of a trilogy fight.
“I’m happy with where I am. I’m happy with the face I see in the mirror. The goal was to be technical and to choose my shots, not to fight at all. I hurt him and got a little crazy.
Worked the legs
McGregor likes to call himself “Mystic Mac” and had spent the week before the fight predicting he would finish in 60 seconds.
But he did meet a different Poirier than the one who looked outmatched when the pair previously met at UFC 178 at the lighter featherweight.
Poirier worked the legs and took McGregor in a grappling hook for much of the first round – avoiding a boxing showdown against a man who once shared the ring with Floyd Mayweather and had touted a future fight with Manny Pacquiao.
Poirier then found his range in the second, weakening McGregor’s base with more calf kicks before blowing up for the shock finish.
He shifted McGregor with a big over left, then dropped him to the canvas with a straight flush flush on the Irishman’s nose before referee Herb Dean gave him a sign.
“You know, it’s hard to get over inactivity for long periods of time,” said McGregor, who hadn’t fought since he beat Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds last January.
“The calf kick was really good, but Dustin is a fighter,” McGregor said.
“I’m going to dust off and come back because that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll take my licks. I’m emptied, it’s hard to swallow. I just want to go back to the hotel, relax with my kids, and regroup.
Second Poirier is now in a prime position to inherit or fight for the UFC lightweight belt, recently held by undefeated Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov, now retired.
“I felt like it was the title fight. If Khabib doesn’t come back I’m the champion, ”Poirier said.
UFC president Dana White had made no secret of the fact that he would love to see Nurmagomedov, who retired undefeated after beating Justin Gaethje last October, return for a lucrative rematch with McGregor.
White was in immediate contact with Nurmagomedov to see if he saw anything that would bring him back into the Octagon, but he said the undefeated Dagestan was apparently sticking to his decision to retire, at least for now. .
“He said ‘Dana, be honest with yourself. I’m so many levels above these guys. I beat these guys, ”White said at a press conference as he watched what undoubtedly would have been a very lucrative pay-per-view event slip away.
Saturday’s fight took place inside the new Etihad Arena at Yas Island’s “Fight Island” bio-secure sports center, which the Abu Dhabi government established in July.
The three UFC events held over the past week were the first to allow fans to sit cage-side, with around 2,000 attending for the main event.