• Reuters, AFP-Jiji


Conor McGregor is the biggest star in mixed martial arts. But he’s been busier being a star outside the cage than a fighter in it in recent years, and it caught up to him Saturday night at UFC 257.

Dustin Poirier (27-6), meanwhile, has been steadily picking off the best fighters in the lightweight division, and it paid off for the Lafayette, Louisiana, native with a fantastic finish of McGregor at the 2:32 mark of the second round in their bout in Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.

Dublin’s McGregor (22-5) got off to a flying start in the opening round, finding a home with his patented left hand, and also connecting on stiff right jabs. Poirier tried to wear him down in the clinch, only to be met with sharp shoulder shivers by McGregor.

But Poirier found his footing by the end of the round and ramped it up in the second.

Repeated kicks to McGregor’s lead leg slowed his attack, and the heavy-hitting Poirier turned up the heat, with a big left to the jaw, setting up the final flurry which deposited a glassy-eyed McGregor to the mat and ended the bout.

“I’m happy but I’m not surprised. I put in the work,” Poirier after the referee stepped in to save McGregor from further damage.

Poirier’s win was also retribution of sorts, as it avenged a loss in their first encounter at UFC 178 in 2014, a bout McGregor won in less than two minutes.

“First off I want to say Conor took this result professionally. We’re 1-1 and maybe we’re going to have to do it again,” said Poirier, hinting at the prospect of a third bout between the two.

“I’m happy with the place I am in. I’m happy with the face I see in the mirror.

“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 has now won two fights and is 7-1 in his past eight, with the only loss in that span to undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is now retired.

“I’ll dust it off and come back because that’s what I’ll do. I’ll take my licks,” said McGregor, who has dropped two of three and has only won once since 2016.

“I’m gutted, it’s a tough one to swallow. I just want to go back to the hotel and chill with my kids and regroup.”

The second-ranked Poirier is now in prime position to either inherit or fight for the UFC’s lightweight belt Nurmagomedov most recently held.

“I felt like this was the title fight. If Khabib’s not coming back then I’m the champion,” said Poirier.

Saturday’s fight was held on the “Fight Island” bio-secure sporting hub of Yas Island that the Abu Dhabi government established last July.

The three UFC events staged over the past week have been the first to allow fans to sit cageside, with around 2,000 in attendance for the main event.

In the evening’s co-feature bout, former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler (22-5) made a sensational splash in his UFC debut. The San Diego resident swarmed New Zealand’s Dan Hooker (20-10), landing a right to the body, a huge left to the jaw which dropped him, and a flurry of ground strikes before the bout was waved off for a TKO at the 2:30 mark of the opening round.

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