Conor McGregor's bout with Dustin Poirier was supposed to bring clarity to the UFC's lightweight division and the prospect of a rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov, but his stunning knockout loss raises 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 KO 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.
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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 as he watched what would undoubtedly have been a very lucrative pay-per-view event slip away.
For McGregor, it was a first knockout defeat as a pro and surely not an outcome he expected as he arrived in Abu Dhabi on his yacht in midweek, enjoying the trappings of the fame and wealth that this sport has brought him.
But this time he was to be the combatant ending the bout knocked senseless as Poirier avenged a 2014 loss at featherweight.
McGregor took to Twitter on Sunday to thank his fans and say that he is targeting a trilogy encounter with Poirier.
“Thanks for the support everyone,” McGregor said. “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. Dustin is a hell of a competitor and I look forward to going again. God bless us all, happy Sunday.“
Along with Michael Chandler, who won the co-main event with a knockout of Dan Hooker, Poirier is now the top name in terms of title shots when White and his match-making team meet this Tuesday to plan for the future, while McGregor considers his next move.
“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 told a media conference, 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.
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