American underdog Dustin Poirier messed up the world of mixed martial arts by slapping the legs of Irish superstar Conor McGregor before knocking him out of the tournament at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi.
“I am happy, but not surprised. I did the job, ”said Poirier on Sunday after the referee intervened after two minutes and 32 seconds of round two to save McGregor from further damage after being dropped from a violent combination of blows.
32-year-old Poirier finished second in fighting weight but was considered a tough underdog by bookies to beat his fourth-placed opponent, arguably the most famous fighter the sport has ever seen.
The controversial McGregor, known as “Notorious,” returned to the Octagon for the first time in a year, hoping to repeat the couple’s first competition in 2014, which TKO won after just 109 seconds.
But Poirier, who now has a UFC record of 27-6, used low calf kicks to stop McGregor (22-5) from his usual wild stand-up game – and it worked.
“First of all, I would like to say that Conor has received this result professionally. We’re 1: 1 and maybe have to do it again, ”said Poirier, pointing to the prospect of a trilogy fight.
“I am happy with the place where I am. I am happy with the face I see in the mirror. The goal was to be technical and get my shots, not a brawl at all. I hurt him and went a little crazy. “
Conor McGregor of Ireland, left, beats American Dustin Poirier in a light fight during the UFC 257 event at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates [Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images]
Worked the legs
McGregor likes to call himself “Mystic Mac” and had spent the week before the fight predicting that he would end it within 60 seconds.
But he met a different Poirier than the one who had looked outdone when the pair previously met at UFC 178 in the lighter featherweight division.
Working on the legs, Poirier took McGregor into a fight for much of the first round – to avoid a boxing match against a man who once shared the ring with Floyd Mayweather and had touted a future fight against Manny Pacquiao.
Poirier then found his range in the second and weakened McGregor’s base with more calf punches before exploding for the shock finish.
He staggered McGregor to the left with a large overhand, then dropped him onto the canvas with a straight right flush on the Irishman’s nose before referee Herb Dean waved him off.
“You know, it’s hard to get over long periods of inactivity,” said McGregor, who hadn’t fought since beating Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds last January.
“The low calf kick was very good, but Dustin’s a fighter,” said McGregor.
“I’ll dust it off and come back because that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll take my licks I am disappointed it is hard to swallow. I just want to go back to the hotel and relax and regroup with my kids. “
McGregor, right, spent the week leading up to the fight predicting that it would end within 60 seconds [Reuters]The second-tier Poirier is now in the best position to inherit or fight for the UFC’s light belt, last held by the now undefeated Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“I had the feeling that this was the title fight. If Khabib doesn’t come back, I’ll be the champ, ”said Poirier.
UFC President Dana White made no secret of the fact that he would like to see Nurmagomedov, who retired undefeated after beating Justin Gaethje last October, return to a lucrative rematch with McGregor.
White was in direct contact with Nurmagomedov to see if he had seen anything that would lure him back into the octagon, but said the undefeated Dagestani apparently stuck to his decision to retire for the time being.
“He said, ‘Dana, be honest with yourself. I’m so many levels above these guys. I beat the boys, ”White said at a media conference as he watched what was undoubtedly a very lucrative pay-per-view event slip away.
The fight on Saturday took place in the new Etihad Arena on the bio-safe sports center “Fight Island” on Yas Island, which the government of Abu Dhabi established last July.
The three UFC events held last week were the first where fans could sit on the cage side. Around 2,000 visitors took part in the main event.
Dustin Poirier, right, beats Conor McGregor during the UFC 257 event at the Etihad Arena on Fight Island on Saturday in Abu Dhabi [Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images]