UFC

Is that this the tip of the road for Conor McGregor?

The elation that one may need anticipated to see from Dustin Poirier was absent. He’d hit the MMA lottery by knocking out Conor McGregor on Saturday at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi, however he didn’t look or act like a man who’d had that one-in-a-billion profitable Powerball ticket.

You win the Powerball and also you soar and also you yell and also you cheer and you’ll’t imagine your luck.

Poirier did none of that. It was like he anticipated to do what he’d completed on one of the vital exceptional nights in UFC historical past.

It was McGregor who was all smiles afterward, the strut that so many like to imitate absent however the grin and the nice humor nonetheless there. McGregor stated he’d be again, form of blamed the loss on his inactivity and stated he’d combat once more this yr.

It was laborious to inform if he have been critical. The smile may simply as simply have been considered one of aid.

Maybe the calf kick and the left and proper hand that adopted it eliminated a large weight from McGregor’s again.

He’s value round 1 / 4 of a billion {dollars} or extra, totally resulting from his capability to beat folks up whereas regaling them with one-liners earlier than he does it.

He has all the things he may need in life aside from one crucial factor:

Peace.

He’s hounded all over the place he goes. There aren’t any fast journeys to the grocery retailer or a leisurely browse on the newest drivers within the golf retailer. He requires an entourage the dimensions of a presidential Secret Service element to run his errands.

He’s as fierce a competitor within the sport, however there comes a time in each athlete’s life when he is aware of that, nicely, issues are totally different.

Perhaps that point has come for McGregor.

Conor McGregor of Eire reacts after his TKO loss to Dustin Poirier in a light-weight combat throughout the UFC 257 occasion inside Etihad Area on UFC Struggle Island on Jan. 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Picture by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Poirier had quietly grow to be one of many best fighters on the earth after getting starched by McGregor at UFC 178 on Sept. 27, 2014, in Las Vegas. He lasted 106 seconds that night time and was by no means actually within the combat.

The win was a springboard to greatness for McGregor. He’d go on to win the interim featherweight title two fights later and shortly would grow to be the primary dual-weight champion in UFC historical past.

Losses like that may devastate a younger fighter, and Poirier was nonetheless simply 25. Confidence is so essential for a fighter, and when a fighter loses it, it’s ugly. Bear in mind how unhealthy Ronda Rousey was in opposition to Amanda Nunes at UFC 207. She’d misplaced her confidence in her prior combat in opposition to Holly Holm, and seemed in opposition to Nunes as if she didn’t belong in the identical cage.

Poirier, although, confirmed the resolve that few possess. He’s gone on one of many nice stretches within the sport’s historical past since that loss, going 11-2 with the one losses to light-weight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and, inexplicably, Michael Johnson.

However amongst these 11 wins have been victories over Dan Hooker, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis and, on Saturday, McGregor.

That’s a rare run by means of the meat of the UFC’s finest division by far.

Poirier realized tips on how to take care of the pressures and the expectations and he turned himself into an incredible fighter.

“I’m glad, man,” Poirier stated. “I’m glad within the place I’m and like I’ve stated again and again, I’m pleased with the person I see within the mirror.”

Nobody is aware of really how McGregor feels. If he chooses to proceed preventing, he may nonetheless be an element on the highest degree, even when he didn’t look as fast or as explosive as he has so usually previously.

It’s that quickness and explosion, together with a genius-level combat IQ, that has made him among the best fighters of this era.

The fastball was there on Saturday, and he clipped Poirier laborious a number of occasions. Poirier, although, survived when he stated McGregor flash-KO’d him with a left hand within the first spherical. It was an indication of Poirier’s maturity as a fighter even when he stated that McGregor had hit him so laborious he would’ve completed him had he pressed the motion.

To make use of a baseball analogy, it appears McGregor might have misplaced just a little motion and a few miles per hour off the fastball, and that pushes him from elite to simply excellent.

Does Conor McGregor need to be simply excellent? Will he be content material realizing his championship days are numbered?

Nobody is aware of for certain, although it’s extremely unlikely he’ll stroll away simply but.

What wouldn’t be stunning is that if he engages previous good friend Nate Diaz in a rubber match again at 170 in what he declares forward of time can be a retirement combat.

It will be a giant combat financially, and would have a fantastic impression on the legacies of each males. It will, in some ways, settle the story.

For McGregor, it’s not essentially the tip of the road, however it might be.

He could be uninterested in the burden that comes together with his superstardom and of carrying the game in his native Eire, like he has for thus lengthy.

His aggressive instincts might nicely convey him again for yet another — Who desires to exit being KO’d for the primary time in his MMA profession? — however clearly, his days are numbered.

The torch has been handed to a brand new era of fighters.

There have been a number of downs, however so many extra exhilarating moments. If that is it, it’s been one hell of a trip.

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