There’s nothing bigger in combat sports than a trilogy fight. Saturday’s UFC 264 presents arguably the biggest one in history, with Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor set to share the octagon for a final time.
After each man picked up a knockout win over the other in the first two meetings, Poirier (27-6 MMA, 19-5 UFC) and McGregor (22-5 MMA, 10-3 UFC) meet in the definitive rubber match to close out the biggest UFC card of the year so far.
UFC 264 takes place in Las Vegas, and with a sold-out crowd slated to pack T-Mobile Arena, the only place to watch the event is on ESPN+. Prelims start at 6:00 p.m. ET and are followed by the main card at 10:00 pm ET. UFC 264 is available exclusively to ESPN+ subscribers via pay-per-view.
Those who tune in will get a chance to see history unfold. There have been 13 trilogy fights in UFC history, and although Poirier vs. McGregor is a rare one among the group to never have a title on the line in any of the bouts, the stakes are still as high as it gets.
For Poirier, this is another chance at validation, and to prove once and for all he’s the superior man to McGregor. “The Diamond” took the hard road to this spot. After losing the first bout to McGregor in less than two minutes at UFC 178 in September 2014, Poirier made significant adjustments to his approach, and the benefits have been undeniable.
Poirier got wrapped up in McGregor’s trash talk ahead of the first meeting, and it cost him. The loss prompted him to move up to the lightweight division from featherweight, and he’s lost just twice in 14 octagon appearances since.
His run through the 155-pound division has been utterly impressive, and includes capturing the interim belt back in 2019. Poirier is currently tied for the most knockout wins in the history of the weight class, one of which came against McGregor in their anticipated rematch at UFC 257 in January.
Just over seven years after he was finished, Poirier redeemed himself in the second encounter with McGregor. He used a brilliant offensive striking strategy to become the first to knock out McGregor in MMA competition, evening the series between them.
Poirier could have moved on from McGregor and accepted a title shot earlier this year. However, he instead chose to pursue the more financially lucrative option of a third fight. Another win over McGregor would not only be big for Poirier’s bank account, but it would push his stock in the sport into the stratosphere.
He’ll attempt to put on a repeat performance at UFC 264, which is available exclusively to order through ESPN+ pay-per-view.
Although there’s a lot on the line for Poirier at UFC 264, the stakes are perhaps even greater for McGregor.
McGregor’s victory over Poirier in 2014 is a distant memory at this point, and he’s keen to remind the world what he’s still capable of. The Irishman has never lost two fights in a row in his career, and now would be a poor time to start.
After being inactive for almost the entirety of 2020, McGregor hand-selected the rematch with Poirier in January. He was confident he could duplicate the result of the first fight and score another knockout win to prove he’s relevant as ever in the lightweight division.
It didn’t go that way, however, and McGregor was instead shut down by strikes for the first time inside the octagon. There’s no shame in losing to Poirier (and there still wouldn’t be if it happened again), but if McGregor wants to portray the image of being the cream of the crop in the fight game, a victory is a must.
McGregor’s position as one of the top draws in all of combat sports is secure regardless of the outcome. However, the type of fights he competes in going forward hinges greatly on the trilogy. A win sets up a likely championship showdown with Charles Oliveira, while a loss puts him in “fun fight” territory.
At this stage, McGregor is determined to show he can beat the current version of Poirier. His carries great confidence that his loss in the rematch was a mere stumble, and he intends to course correct.
History shows the odds aren’t in his favor, though. The winner of the second fight is 9-3 in the third encounter in previous UFC trilogy fights, which means McGregor has an uphill climb ahead of him.
If anyone can do it, though, it’s McGregor, a former two-division champion and one of the most unique athletes in UFC history.
Can he do it and will he do it are two different things, though. UFC 264 will provide the ultimate answer, and it all goes down exclusively to ESPN+ subscribers via pay-per-view. Sign up for the fight here.