Dubai: Let’s hope that the engineers have fortified the roof at the new Etihad Arena on YAS Island in Abu Dhabi because its likely to be blown off come Sunday morning when Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier meet in what promises to be an all-out war to heading UFC 257, the final event of the Fight Island triple header.
Don’t be surprised if you see bombs being thrown by either fighter who boast some of MMA’s most explosive combat skills and don’t know what fear means.
They met for the first time six years ago in 2014 at UFC 178 where McGregor spectacularly finished Poirier in just 1:46 of the very first round. Given the way that the fight ended, who would have thought that they would meet again for the second time.
But Poirier is now a completely different fighter to the one that wilted under the Irishman’s powerful onslaught. He has improved in leaps and bounds since join the South Florida-based American Top Team and has emerged as a leading contender to compete for the featherweight title, currently held by Khabib Nurmagomedov.
That said, Poirier has shown remarkable improvements in all areas of his game and particularly within the striking realm which has seen him record a series of massive wins over top fighters like Eddie Alvarez (twice), Anthony Pettis, Justin Geathje, Max Holloway and Dan Hooker. His only loss in his last eight fights was against Khabib at Abu Dhabi on September 7, 2019.
McGregor showed a lot of respect for the new Poirier and said earlier this week: “I’ve been highly impressed, I think the whole business has been highly impressed, after that loss many, many years ago, he rose up became champion and has given so much back.
“I am honoured to share the octagon with this man. I know we have this competitive fire, and it’s still there, there’s no denying that and it’s going to be a good fireworks filled bout but the respect is admirable for this man from me.”
Since his 2014 win over Poirier, McGregor has dropped just two fights to Nate Diaz and Kebab, while posting explosive wins over the likes of Chad Mendes, Eddie Alvarez and most recently Donald Cerrone.
“I have plenty of motivation,” McGregor said on Thursday. “Dustin is a hell of a competitor. What does the champ-champ do? He does it twice. OK, I conquered it. Let’s conquer it again. Do it twice. That’s what the champ-champ does.
“I feel like I’m only starting. Everyone wants to kind of (say), ‘Hey, Conor, you’ve done it all. You’re so rich. You’re richer than Dana (White) over here. What are you doing here?’
“Am I not allowed to be here? I want to be here. I want to perform for the fans. I’m a young man. I’ve got many highlights – you know, all the money, all the belts, everything,” he bragged.
“That comes and that goes. You know what lives on? Highlights – a fighter’s highlights.
“You look at Roy Jones Jr.’s highlights, Mike Tyson’s highlights, (Muhammad) Ali’s highlights. I want my highlight reel to be like a movie.
“That’s what I’m after. I’m looking to get in and perform (and) put on amazing highlights that I can sit as an old man with my son and just watch back and just enjoy life.”
But for the moment, he has to contend with Poirier for the second time, a smarter and more aggressive Poirier who boats a rock solid chin, a bottomless gas tank and an abundance of motivation.
Since returning to 155 pounds, the 32-year-old looks the finish article. But will he get the finish over on MMA’s greatest ever fighters, a larger-than-life legend.
We will find out early Sunday morning while sipping on a cup of coffee.
McGregor v Poirier: Latest odds
Conor McGregor: 4/11
Dustin Poirier: 9/4
Fighter fact file
Dustin Poirier (26-6 MMA, 18-5 UFC)
Height: 5’9″ Age: 32 Weight: 155 lbs. Reach: 72″
Last fight: Decision win over Dan Hooker (June 27, 2020)
Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
Former interim UFC lightweight champion
Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
12 KO victories
7 submission wins
12 first-round finishes
Aggressive pace and pressure
Improved overall boxing
Strong inside of the clinch
Solid submissions and scrambling
Conor McGregor (22-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC)
Height: 5’9″ Age: 32 Weight: 155 lbs. Reach: 74″
Last fight: TKO win over Donald Cerrone (Jan. 18, 2020)
Camp: SBG Ireland (Ireland)
Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
Former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion
The first fighter in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously,
Cage Warriors lightweight and featherweight titles
Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
19 KO victories
1 submission win
14 first-round finishes
Athletic and agile mover
Strong and varied kicking arsenal
Improved wrestling/takedown defense
McGregor vs Poirier Start time in UAE
The early prelims start from 3.30pm UAE time on Sunday, January 24.
The prelims are scheduled for a 5am start
McGregor and Poirier are set to take to the ring at around 9am on Sunday morning.
UFC 257: Poirier vs McGregor 2 will also be aired live on video-on-demand site Starzplay, as well as AD Fight channel channel on Etisalat e-Life TV service. In addition it will be shown on UFC Arabia.
Start times around the world
The main card starts Jan. 23, 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT).
The prelims start Jan. 23, 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT).
The early prelims start Jan. 23, 6.30 p.m. ET (3.30 p.m. PT).
The main card starts Jan. 24, 3 a.m. GMT.
The prelims start Jan. 24, 1 a.m. GMT.
The early prelims start Jan 23, 11.30 p.m. GMT.
The main card starts Jan. 24, 2 p.m. AEDT.
The prelims start Jan. 24, 12 p.m. AEDT.
The early prelims start Jan. 24, 10.30 a.m. AEDT.
McGregor v Poirier: Fight card
MAIN EVENT: Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirier, Lightweight
Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler, Lightweight
Jessica Eye vs. Joanne Calderwood, Women’s Flyweight
Matt Frevola vs. Ottman Azaitar, Lightweight
Marina Rodriguez vs. Amanda Ribas, Women’s Strawweight
Nasrat Haqparast vs. Arman Tsarukyan, Lightweight
Brad Tavares vs. Antonio Carlos Junior, Middleweight
Julianna Pena vs. Sara McMann, Women’s Bantamweight
Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Marcin Prachnio, Light Heavyweight
Andrew Sanchez vs. Makhmud Muradov, Middleweight
Movsar Evloev vs. Nik Lentz, Catchweight
Amir Albazi vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov, Flyweight