LAS VEGAS — Dustin Poirier now owns two victories over the biggest star in the history of mixed martial arts. This one, though, didn’t end in the cleanest way.
Poirier hit Conor McGregor with a combination at the end of the first round of Saturday night’s highly anticipated UFC 264 main event. McGregor went to plant his left foot and his leg buckled, sending him to the mat. Poirier followed up with punches on the ground as time expired in the round.
With McGregor’s leg clearly hurt, referee Herb Dean called the lightweight bout. The official result was Poirier by TKO (doctor’s stoppage) at 5:00 of the first round. A stretcher was brought in to transport McGregor to the hospital. The video replay showed McGregor’s lower leg bent gruesomely as his foot hit the canvas. The UFC later announced it as a lower tibia injury.
The finish left the sold-out crowd disappointed. There was a mixture of boos and cheers when Poirier’s name was announced as the winner. This was one of the most anticipated trilogy fights in UFC history.
“Everybody booing, you can kiss my whole a–h—-,” Poirier said in his postfight interview. “I beat the guy.”
Poirier explained that he hurt McGregor’s ankle on a checked kick and then the ankle buckled at the end of the first round. McGregor denied that it was a checked kick that did it. Poirier picked up his 15th career first-round finish.
“This is not over,” McGregor said.
UFC president Dana White said McGregor will have surgery Sunday morning. White said Poirer will fight for the UFC lightweight title next against champion Charles Oliveira, and then when McGregor is healthy he will probably get a fourth fight against Poirier.
“When Conor is healed and ready to go, we’ll do the rematch, I guess,” White said. “Poirier will do his thing until Conor is ready.”
Olivera told ESPN’s Mike Coppinger he expects the fight with Poirier to possibly be in December.
“It’s really sad what happened (to McGregor), but if you look at Poirier’s game, he’s been improving a lot, he’s been putting a lot of pressure, so he deserves the win,” Olivera said of Saturday night’s result.
White said he believes that had McGregor not been injured, he would have gotten out of the first round.
“His ankle snapped from throwing punches. He was fighting back,” White said. “It wasn’t like he was up against the cage with Dustin unloading punches on him. If his ankle doesn’t break I think we get to the end of the round.”
Poirier stopped McGregor at UFC 257 in January via second-round TKO. In 2014 at UFC 178, McGregor knocked out Poirier in less than two minutes.
McGregor came out throwing more kicks Saturday night than he did in their second fight six months ago. His lack of kicks was a criticism in that bout. They looked effective early, landing to Poirier’s body and legs. But Poirier hurt McGregor with a punching combination and big left hand. McGregor initiated a clinch and then jumped a guillotine choke attempt, taking the bout to the mat.
Poirier landed hard ground and pound from top position, but McGregor countered with sharp elbows from the bottom. Poirier landed more punches from the top as McGregor attempted to land up kicks. Poirier gave McGregor a chance to get up and then sent him back to the canvas with a combination, combined with that unnatural twisting of McGregor’s leg.
Poirier (28-6, 1 NC) has won three straight and has just one loss since 2016, a defeat in a lightweight title fight against undefeated all-time great Khabib Nurmagomedov. Poirier is 11-2 (1 NC) since moving up to lightweight from featherweight in 2015. The Louisiana native, who fights out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, is the former UFC interim lightweight champion. ESPN has Poirier, 32, ranked No. 2 in the world at lightweight.
McGregor (22-6) was the first-ever UFC fighter to hold two titles in two divisions at the same time, after beating Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title in 2016 while already holding the featherweight belt. McGregor, 32, has just one win and has only fought four times since that Alvarez bout, not including his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather.