LAS VEGAS (REUTERS, AFP) - The trilogy fight between Dustin Poirier and mixed martial arts (MMA) star Conor McGregor was a whirlwind right up until a freak injury stopped things on Saturday night (July 10) in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Ireland's McGregor (22-6) missed on a punch in the closing seconds of the opening round of their UFC 264 lightweight main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, then appeared to break his left ankle as it rolled while he backpedaled away.
The ringside doctor waved off the fight, so it goes into the books as a TKO at five minutes in favour of Poirier (28-6), who took the last two fights out of their three.
McGregor had to leave the arena on a stretcher.
It was an anti-climactic finish to an action-packed round, in which McGregor got off to a fast start with a wide variety of kicks, then administered a guillotine choke. Poirier popped out, then used his top position on the mat to rain down heavy hands and elbows. They had just re-stood in the closing moments when the fateful injury occurred.
After the bout, Poirier took exception to McGregor's trash talk heading into the fight, as the former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion claimed he would murder Poirier and made objectionable comments about his wife.
"He was telling me he was going to kill me, murder me, you don't talk like that, man," said Poirier, who won for the eighth time in his past nine fights. "The guy's a dirtbag. Karma's not a bitch, she's a mirror."
The evening's co-feature bout can best be described as a tactical affair, as Brazil's Gilbert Burns took a battle of former welterweight title challengers over South Carolina's Stephen Thompson. Burns (20-4) used his grappling game to keep Thompson (16-5-1) from implementing his kickboxing game, which was good for a unanimous decision on straight 29-28 scores.
The crowd by and large was dissatisfied with the lack of action in the bout, which came one fight after a wild one tore down the house.
Australian heavyweight Tai Tuivasa (13-3) needed just 67 seconds to score a violent knockout of former National Football League All-Pro and convicted domestic abuser Greg Hardy (7-4). A huge right to the jaw did the job.
There was no belt on the line when former two-weight UFC champion McGregor met Poirier on Saturday but it remains to be seen what the future holds for the Irishman.
He had been fighting to make his name relevant again after a poor run of results in the octagon. He had fought only three times in MMA since defeating Eddie Alvarez in 2016 to win the lightweight title, which he subsequently lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018.
A more mature McGregor bounced back at welterweight in January 2020 to defeat Donald Cerrone, but a rematch with Poirier, whom he beat during his rise in 2014, in Abu Dhabi in January of this year ended in a second-round knockout loss.
The defeat was a serious setback as McGregor had hoped that victory would set up a lightweight title shot and a lucrative boxing match against Manny Pacquiao. Instead, he slipped down the rankings and the Filipino's interest in a bout cooled.
McGregor and his entourage had rolled into Las Vegas knowing that the 32-year-old's career is coming to a fork in the road.
Win, and he would be back in the UFC title picture.
Lose, as he did, and his best options financially are a trilogy non-title fight with Nate Diaz and perhaps a boxing match against a social media influencer, rather than the likes of American star Floyd Mayweather.