Conor McGregor injures leg, Poirier wins UFC 264 showdown


LAS VEGAS — Dustin Poirier beat Conor McGregor for the second time in six months when McGregor badly injured his left leg in the closing seconds of the first round at UFC 264 on Saturday night.

The fight was stopped after the first-round bell when McGregor (22-6) was unable to continue. The biggest star in mixed martial arts never got up after falling to the canvas following a final-minute blow by Poirier (28-6), who will get the UFC’s next lightweight title shot.

Poirier said he thought McGregor’s leg broke when he checked one of McGregor’s kicks earlier in the fight.

Poirier was largely in control of the opening round, parrying McGregor’s kicks and landing several strikes before getting control over McGregor on the ground. After a long stretch of punches and elbows on the prone McGregor, Poirier knocked him down one last time — and McGregor’s ankle bent gruesomely as he fell.

“I felt something, for sure,” Poirier said. “He fractured it on one of the kicks at the beginning of the fight, and then he broke it.”

McGregor was furious about the circumstances of his loss before he was carried from the cage. He also continued his lengthy campaign of verbal abuse against Poirier and his wife on the way out.

“This is not over!” he shouted.

UFC President Dana White said he was told McGregor broke his shin near the ankle. McGregor will have surgery on Sunday morning.

White confirmed Poirier will get the next shot at new lightweight champ Charles Oliveira. He also said he expects a fourth fight between McGregor and Poirier at some point after McGregor’s leg heals.

“The fight didn’t get finished,” White said. “You can’t have a fight finish that way. We’ll see how this whole thing plays out. Who knows how long Conor is out? Poirier will do his thing until Conor is ready.”

McGregor dropped to 1-3 in the cage since 2016, when he abdicated his UFC title reigns and accepted a wildly lucrative boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. McGregor has been unable to recapture his fearsome MMA form, losing decisively to Khabib Nurmagomedov and twice to Poirier while beating only an over-the-hill Donald Cerrone.

Poirier stopped McGregor in the second round when they met in Abu Dhabi last January, avenging his first-round knockout loss to McGregor in 2014. Poirier’s clear superiority in the fighters’ second bout made a third showdown seem questionable just six months later, but McGregor demanded the chance to fix his mistakes and Poirier accepted the massive paycheck that comes from sharing a cage with McGregor.

Instead of taking an easier fight or another boxing match, McGregor wanted another shot at Poirier after getting stopped by strikes for the first time in his MMA career. He claimed he had been distracted by his plans to box Manny Pacquiao this year, and he vowed to devote his full attention to MMA in training camp.

McGregor’s star power has shown no significant decline despite the dwindling evidence of his once-transcendent skills. The celebrity-studded Vegas crowd was vocally behind McGregor, who strutted into the octagon with his usual flair.

But the steady, hardworking Poirier has earned the chance to recapture the lightweight title he held on an interim basis in 2019 before his loss to Nurmagomedov. That was the only defeat in nearly five years for Poirier, who has mostly maintained a decade of upward momentum in the UFC.

Poirier likely would have been the next opponent for Oliveira in the wake of Nurmagomedov’s retirement, but Poirier risked that opportunity by taking this lucrative rematch with McGregor. The decision revealed Poirier’s confidence in his ability to handle McGregor again, and the fighter known as “The Diamond” shone.

McGregor was charming and friendly to Poirier throughout the promotion of their second bout earlier this year, but that collegiality was gone for the third fight. McGregor returned to his verbose, mean-spirited promotional persona, repeatedly insulting Poirier’s wife and vowing to kill the man who beat him six months earlier.

T-Mobile Arena was packed with a sellout UFC crowd for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, and President Dana White said the gate revenue was around $16.5 million, ranking among the highest in UFC history. The celebrity crowd included Dave Chappelle, Mel Gibson, Miles Teller, Jared Leto, Steve Aoki, Jackass’ Steve-O, Baker Mayfield and NFL owners Robert Kraft and Mark Davis.

Donald Trump also arrived for the final three fights and got a brief, loud burst of cheers and boos from the packed arena.

Gilbert Burns won a unanimous decision over Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson in the co-main event, with the Brazilian bouncing back from his knockout loss to welterweight champ Kamaru Usman in February.

Earlier on the pay-per-view card, Australian heavyweight Tai Tuivasa celebrated his violent first-round knockout of former NFL player Greg Hardy by climbing onto the octagon fence and doing a shoey — drinking booze from a shoe in proper Aussie celebratory style. Hardy, who lost his NFL career in 2015 after being convicted of domestic violence, has lost two straight fights after a 7-2 start to his MMA career.

Welterweights Michel Pereira and Niko Price put on the best show on the early undercard, and Pereira highlighted his narrow decision victory with a remarkable standing backflip and a scramble into full mount on a prone Price.

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