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McGregor vows to bounce back but admits Poirier loss is 'hard to take'

The 32-year-old Dubliner suffered the first knockout defeat of his career in the Abu Dhabi rematch.

mma-ufc-257 Conor McGregor throws a punch against Dustin Poirier at UFC 257. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

CONOR MCGREGOR ADMITTED he was “heartbroken” after a shock UFC knockout by underdog Dustin Poirier left the superstar’s future in the cage uncertain.

“It’s hard to take,” the Irishman told a post-fight news conference. “(It’s) the highest highs and the lowest lows in this game. I don’t know where I’m at, at the minute, to be honest.”

The 32-year-old had been an overwhelming favourite to register a winning return after a year away from the octagon. But Poirier (27-6), who lost in 109 seconds to McGregor (22-5) in their first fight in 2014, used a lower leg kicking strategy to negate his opponent’s stand-up style.

The American then launched a sustained barrage of blows to the head, culminating in a straight right dropping McGregor to the floor moments before the fight was stopped at two minutes 32 seconds of the second round.

“I have no excuse. It was a phenomenal performance from Dustin. It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” said McGregor, who hobbled onto to the stage with the help of a crutch and revealed his calf had blown up “like an American football.”

The unexpected defeat left many MMA fans wondering what will be next for McGregor, who will face questions about his future in the sport.

The loss will scupper any possible rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov, the unbeaten UFC lightweight champion who has now retired. Nurmagomedov’s submission victory over McGregor in 2018 set an all-time record for UFC pay-per-view (PPV) with 2.4 million buys.

The Russian was quick to mock McGregor on social media: “This is what happened, when you change your team, leave the sparring partners who made you a champion and sparring with little kids, far away from reality,” he tweeted.

UFC boss Dana White said Sunday’s UFC 257 card was tracking to be among the top three PPVs in history, with all featuring the wildly popular McGregor.

But the defeat may mean McGregor now explores other avenues, such as a money-spinning boxing match against the Philippines’ great Manny Pacquiao. McGregor fought retired unbeaten boxing great Floyd Mayweather in 2017.

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McGregor deflected questions about the possibility of a fight against the eight-weight world champion, saying he was more concerned with healing his damaged right leg.

“I’ll regroup,” he said. “I’ll pick myself up, get up off the floor and go again. I’ll keep my head high.”

Pacquiao had wished McGregor luck on social media ahead of the fight, and tweeted afterwards: “Beautiful thing about the fight game, anything can happen! Congrats to Dustin Poirier Huge win!”

There was still time though for one last flash of McGregor’s old brashness, before he limped away when he was told of Nurmagomedov’s mocking social media posts.

“That’s the character of the man for sure, behind the mask,” McGregor snapped back. “If he wants to have his disrespectful comments, come back and let’s go again.” 

© – AFP, 2021

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