Sports

Conor McGregor’s future in flux after shock defeat by Dustin Poirier

Once MMA's golden boy, Irishman has now lost two of his last three fights

Conor McGregor's bout with Dustin Poirier yesterday was supposed to bring clarity to the Ultimate Fighting Championship's lightweight division and the prospect of a rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov, but his stunning knockout loss raised more questions that it answered for the division.

With thousands of McGregor fans in the stands - seemingly far more than the official attendance of 2,600 provided by the UFC - the stage was set for another triumphant night for the UFC's golden boy, but Poirier tore up the script to win by knockout in the middle of the second round.

UFC president Dana White had earlier been making no secret of the fact that he would like to see Nurmagomedov, who retired undefeated after beating Justin Gaethje last October, come back for a lucrative rematch with McGregor.

White was in immediate contact with Nurmagomedov to see if he had seen anything that would entice him back into the octagon, but he said the undefeated Dagestani was apparently sticking by his decision to retire, for the time being at least.

"He said, 'Dana, be honest with yourself. I'm so many levels above these guys. I beat these guys'," White told a media conference.

The Russian was also quick to mock McGregor on social media after the fight.

"This is what happened, when you change your team, leave the sparring partners who made you a champion and sparring with little kids, far away from reality," he tweeted.

For McGregor, it was a first knockout defeat as a pro and surely not an outcome he expected, as the Irishman arrived in Abu Dhabi on his yacht in midweek, enjoying the trappings of the wealth that this sport has brought him.

"It's a bitter pill to swallow, and I don't even know whether I'm that upset, I don't know what to say," he said, before going on to list trilogy fights against Poirier and Nate Diaz and a possible boxing match with Manny Pacquiao as being on his radar.

The 32-year-old Poirier, who avenged a 2014 loss at featherweight, was ranked second in the flyweight division going into the fight. But he was still rated as a heavy underdog to beat his fourth-ranked rival.

"I'm happy but I'm not surprised. I put in the work," said the American, after the referee stepped in after 2min 32sec of the second round to save McGregor from further damage after he was dropped by a fierce combination of punches.

"I'm happy with the place I'm in. I'm happy with the face I see in the mirror," he said. "The goal was to be technical and to pick my shots, not brawl at all. I had him hurt and I went a little crazy."

Poirier is now in prime position to inherit or fight for the UFC's lightweight belt, most recently held by Nurmagomedov. "I felt like this was the title fight. If Khabib's not coming back, then I'm the champion," said Poirier. - AFP, REUTERS

MMA (MIXED MARTIAL ARTS)