“It’s hard to overcome inactivity over a long period of time,” McGregor said after what was only his third MMA fight since 2016. “I just wasn’t as comfortable as I needed to be, you know what I mean? It’s inactivity, and that’s it.”
Poirier landed a left hand shot that sent McGregor reeling against the cage midway through the second round and followed with shots that floored McGregor, with the TKO arriving at 2 minutes 32 seconds.
“I need activity, guys, c’mon,” said McGregor who told ESPN last week that he’d like to fight seven times in the next 18 months. “You know, you don’t get away with being inactive in this business, and that’s the way it is. So I’ll take my licks.”
Those licks were painful and the Irish fighter went on to add, “Me leg is completely dead.”
It wasn’t the anticipated result for many, including UFC President Dana White anticipated. The upset likely dims the possibility of Khabib Nurmagomedov being lured out of retirement for a blockbuster rematch with McGregor.
As for what happens next, White told reporters he believes Poirier (27-6) will fight Michael Chandler for the lightweight title after a recent conversation with Nurmagomedov (29-0), who holds the lightweight title but said in October that he was walking away from competition. “He said to me, ‘Dana, be honest with yourself. I’m so many levels above these guys, I beat these guys,’” White said of Nurmagomedov. “I don’t know. But it doesn’t sound very positive. We’ll see.”
White added that he planned to speak to the champion again, but didn’t plan to press him to return to the Octagon.
Poirier, 32, ranked second in the lightweight division, wasn’t thrilled with the idea of facing Chandler, who turned heads with his UFC debut Sunday morning. Chandler (22-5 overall), a three-time former Bellator champion, knocked out Dan Hooker in the first round of the co-main event of UFC 257.
“I can guarantee I’m not fighting Michael Chandler,” Poirier said. “They can do whatever they want with the division. It’s not a knock against him. It’s just my feeling toward the division and the sport.”
Poirier, who avenged a loss to McGregor in 2014, wants a title shot. “I feel like I’ve done it all except I can’t walk away and say I’m the champ,” he said. “I want to be the champ. When you’re the champ, you can say you’re the champ forever.”
Nurmagomedov, for his part, couldn’t resist a jab at McGregor after UFC 257. “This is what happened, when you change your team, leave the sparring partners who made you a champion and sparring with little kids, far away from reality,” he tweeted.
That drew a response from McGregor (22-5), who told reporters: “My team has been the team since Day 1. I have not changed anything. It is what it is. Respect the athletes. That’s the character of the man, for sure, behind the mask. Whatever, what’s he want to do? Does he want to come back or no? If he wants to have his disrespectful comments, come back and let’s go again, my man. I’m here for it. That’s fighting talk.”
Nurmagomedov did not seem inclined to take the bait, writing a more congenial message. “You can like him or hate, but you have to Respect him. This guy build this sport @ufc. Thank you for everything @danawhite. I have so much respect for you.”
Whatever the future brings, McGregor, 32, will have a place in it. He expressed the wish for a third fight with Poirier and said he’d “adopt a different approach” for it. “Those leg kicks are not to be messed with,” he said. “The calf kick, the low calf kick, I hadn’t experienced that.”
Later Sunday morning, McGregor tweeted: “Was not my night/morning in there but a great contest to improve on. I’m excited at the blockbuster trilogy I now have on my hands. Dustin is a hell of a competitor and I look forward to going again. God bless us all, happy Sunday.”
White was already beginning to think about how McGregor, who had not fought since knocking out Donald Cerrone in January 2020, might rebound after his first lightweight fight since his 2018 loss to Nurmagomedov.
“I think it will make him hungrier. There’s two ways this goes,” he said. “Hungrier or ‘I’m done.’ ”