About a year ago at this time, a rejuvenated Conor McGregor had big plans in store following a quick finish of Donald Cerrone at UFC 246.
An active 2020 calendar didn’t come to fruition for the Irish star, however, and it was a much more somber atmosphere following his first appearance since then, a second-round technical knockout loss to Dustin Poirier in the UFC 257 headliner at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night. A victory could have opened the door for numerous possibilities for the biggest star in the sport. Instead, McGregor must figure out how to rebound from perhaps the most damaging loss of his career to date.
“It’s the whole shebang, but I have no excuses here. It was a phenomenal performance by Dustin. I don’t know what to say,” McGregor said at the post-fight press conference. “I’m going to go back. I’m going to chill out. I’ll watch the full fight and get a better grasp on it. The leg was compromised. I was rushing the shots a little bit, and I didn’t adjust. That’s that. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. I don’t even know if I’m that upset. I don’t know what to say.”
The showing was a stark contrast to McGregor’s first meeting with Poirier at UFC 178, where he got into his opponent’s head before the fight and finished him off in less than two minutes in September 2014. A much-improved Poirier took center stage on Saturday, as he landed an early takedown, battered McGregor’s leg with calf kicks and swarmed on his compromised foe with punches for the stoppage at the 2:32 mark of Round 2.
“My leg is completely dead,” McGregor admitted. “Even though I felt like I was checking them, it was just sinking into the muscle in the front of the leg, and it was badly compromised. It was like an American football in my suit at the minute, so it is what it is.”
McGregor remains the most recognizable figure in the sport, and as long as he’s willing to keep accepting fights, there should still be plenty of opportunities for the SBG Ireland standout. The former two-division champion vowed to bounce back in the aftermath of his latest setback.
“I’ll certainly regroup,” McGregor said. “I’ll regroup. I’ll pick myself off the floor and go again. That’s it. Styles make fights. There’s many great stylistic fights out there. Myself and Dustin are one-and-one. Myself and Nate [Diaz] are one-and-one. There are many good matchups for me. I’ll adopt a different approach for the trilogy. … I have a lot more weapons I didn’t get to show. It wasn’t my night. It wasn’t a great night. Again, no excuses. Hats off. [I’ll] regroup and pick myself up.”
Early Sunday, McGregor released a statement on Instagram expressing similar sentiments. Once again, a trilogy with Poirier seemed to be at the forefront his thoughts.
“Thanks for the support everyone! Was not my night/morning in there but a great contest to improve on. I’m excited at the blockbuster trilogy I now have on my hands,” McGregor wrote. “Dustin is a hell of a competitor and I look forward to going again. Elevating the leg and the spirit on my way home! God bless us all, happy Sunday.”
With his future prospects uncertain, McGregor nonetheless seems to be relatively upbeat. That could bode well regarding a relatively quick Octagon return.
“I got to come out here and do this fight here in the Middle East, put on a show for the people,” McGregor said. “I’ve done my best. Things don’t go your way at times. Well, pick yourself up and carry on. I’ve got a lot of good things going on in my life, so I just keep my head high. That’s it. Take the shots, take the licks, and just keep on going.”
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