Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor are not the same people they were more than six years ago going into this Saturday’s UFC 257 rematch on ESPN+.
The first clash in September 2014 featured a pair of fighters in their mid-20s. Poirier and McGregor were both somewhat unpredictable, erratic and emotional. Fast forward to present day, though, and we have two matured family men who, in addition to being fighters, prioritize giving back to their communities through charitable actions.
McGregor won that initial meeting at UFC 178. He used verbal and mental warfare to wrap Poirier around his finger prior to the featherweight fight, then won by knockout in less than two minutes. It’s a fight that validated McGregor in a big way, and marked a launching point to the global superstar he is today.
So much has changed since then, though. McGregor’s evolved into one of the most high-profile athletes in the world, becoming the first man to claim UFC titles in two weight classes and producing a plethora of memorable moments inside the cage. He’s also had his indiscretions outside the cage, making some admittedly poor decisions that have taken valuable years off his fighting career.
Meanwhile, Poirier has kept his nose to the grindstone. He moved up to the lightweight division following his defeat to McGregor, and has slowly but surely proven himself to be one of the best to ever do it in arguably the most competitive weight class in the sport, becoming an interim UFC champion and recording a number of signature wins.
Poirier is aware to the pitfalls that led to his demise in his first encounter with McGregor. He gets a chance to redeem himself in a high profile spot, rematching McGregor in the first pay-per-view main event of 2021, which is available exclusively to ESPN+ subscribers via pay-per-view. The main card begins Saturday at 10 p.m. ET and follows prelims at 6:30 p.m. ET from Etihad Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
It would be easy for Poirier to look at his second chance with McGregor as an opportunity at revenge. However, that’s simply not the case.
“I was emotional in the first one,” Poirier said in a recent interview. “I wanted to hurt the guy. This time,” he says, “I just want to outsmart him, just want to beat him. This isn’t like a revenge type of thing for me,” he continues. “This is about moving my career forward, about putting my family in a better spot. It’s not trying to get back a guy who got me. This is just business.”
McGregor seemingly holds the journey Poirier has taken since beating him years ago in high regard. He’s taken a more measured approach ahead of the rematch, praising Poirier for his upward trajectory in his career over the past several years, as well as the man he’s become outside of fighting with his The Good Fight Foundation charity, which he’ll donate $500,000 toward after UFC 257.
“We’re more mature myself and Dustin – we’re both fathers and we’ve come through a lot,” McGregor said recently. “We both are engaged in much philanthropic efforts and he’s doing a great thing with The Good Fight Foundation. How could I not respect Dustin? One for that, and two for how he handled the last loss and how he came back and how he rose up and became a champion? That’s admirable in my book.”
Although there seems to be a level of cordiality ahead of fight night, make no mistake about it: All that will go out the window when the octagon door closes and the fight gets started.
Poirier is not looking for an easy night at the office, either. He says he wants to have to dig deep in the feet, and hopes to pull the same out of his opponent.
“I want is for both of us to be dripping blood and hurting and suffering early in the fight, then we can find out who’s the real fighter,” Poirier says. “I want us both to be bleeding and really have to dig down and see who’s the better fighter and see who really wants to be in there.”
McGregor says he would relish the type of fight Poirier is asking for. He initially made a prediction that he would win even faster than the first time and put Poirier away inside the first 60 seconds of the fight. Whether that happens remains to be seen. As UFC 257 draws nearer, though, McGregor’s hopes his foe can endure his power – at least for long enough to provide maximum entertainment to viewers.
“I know he’s hoping it’s a war and a dragged out war back-and-forth,” McGregor says. “I am actually excited about that also. I wouldn’t be against that,” McGregor declares: “I’d actually love that.”