Conor McGregor knew that defeat at UFC 264 would leave him staring into the abyss, but his latest setback leaves more questions than answers for the former all-conquering UFC superstar.
McGregor, 32, appeared to be back to his unapologetic, trash talking best in the build up to his trilogy bout against Dustin Poirier, vowing to hurt his rival so badly a stretcher would be required for the Louisianan.
However, it was the Irishman who was wheeled out of the Octagon following his highly-anticipated matchup in an unusual sequence of events in Las Vegas.
Conor McGregor suffered a leg break in his defeat against Dustin Poirier in their trilogy fight
McGregor is in a precarious position now having lost three of his last four fights in the Octagon
McGregor broke his leg in the dying seconds of the first round of the UFC 264 bout
McGregor had been dominated for the duration of the opening stanza at the T-Mobile Arena and appeared on the verge of being stopped until he rolled over on his ankle in the dying seconds of the first round.
An Octagon-side doctor ruled that McGregor was in no fit state to continue fighting with it having been revealed after that he broke his leg – consigning the Irishman to his third defeat in four fights.
The fact that McGregor entered UFC 264 one win away from challenging Charles Oliveira for his lightweight title, against the backdrop of one win in three, speaks volumes of his bargaining power within the promotion.
However, McGregor ought to be some distance from setting foot in the Octagon with UFC gold on the line.
For Poirier, a shot at Oliveira’s title awaits. The Diamond is fully deserving of his title tilt, having risked his status as No 1 contender when he could have easily fought for the vacant crown in the Spring.
Both men expressed their desire to face each other in the immediate aftermath, and Dana White will be fully aware that it is time to afford Poirier his shot.
Poirier celebrates his victory over McGregor via TKO in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Arena
Dana White has claimed McGregor deserves another shot at Poirier after breaking his leg
However, the nature of McGregor’s defeat means that the Irishman still has a chance of barging his way into the championship conversation.
Despite his woeful record of late, the Notorious is a master at spinning defeats in his favour. Before Saturday’s fight, McGregor held a record of 22-5 and during fight week, he claimed that he had lost just once professionally as ‘only knockouts count’.
McGregor’s loyal fanbase will view the circumstances of his defeat as unfortunate, despite the fact he was dominated for all five minutes, and as such the Irishman may have a stronger case for persuading chiefs to give him a fourth fight with Poirier.
White appeared open to the notion of a fourth fight, a promising sign for McGregor. ‘You can’t have a fight finish that way, so we will see how this thing plays out. Who knows how long Conor will be out. Poirier will do his thing until Conor is ready,’ he said.
The timeline appears uncertain for the Irishman. He is set for surgery on Sunday morning and it is unknown how long he will be sidelined for.
It is possible that Poirier and Oliveira could fight for the title while McGregor is out, and should the Louisianan win, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Irishman will call for a title fight against the 32-year-old.
McGregore has been keen to acknowledge that he has a score to settle with Nate Diaz
But there is only so much that fans will buy into, and make no mistake, giving McGregor a shot after a run of three losses in four would be farce for a sport that prides itself on pitting the best against the best.
The likes of Beneil Dariush and Islam Makhachev are far more deserving of a shot at the belt, with the pair at least currently enjoying a winning run.
So McGregor needs a win, but which dance partner will the UFC pit him against? They may not want to risk putting him with Dariush or Makhachev, while Justin Gaethje is a battle-hardened lightweight cut from the same cloth as Poirier.
Tony Ferguson would be an interesting match up. The veteran, like McGregor, is on a losing streak and the pair would certainly sell PPVs given their feisty personalities.
The elephant in the room is Nate Diaz. A third fight with the Stockton-born fan-favourite has lurked for some time, with McGregor keen to acknowledge that he has a score to settle with the Californian with the pair tied at a win apiece.
After a third loss in four, it has raised the possibility that retirement could be on the cards
Both men are on two-fight skids so a fight now would make sense. Diaz is 36 years old but put in a decent showing against top welterweight contender Leon Edwards last time out.
There are limited options for McGregor, but the biggest question is whether the fire remains in the Irishman to keep getting back in the Octagon.
The 32-year-old has made vast fortunes during his career and topped the Forbes list for 2020. For McGregor, he does not need to fight for financial reasons, and his recent comeback has been out of a desire to emulate his sensational run to double champ status.
No matter the circumstances, back-to-back defeats will surely leave McGregor taking a long look in the mirror. In truth, the McGregor we saw on Fight Island and in Las Vegas is some way off competing with the UFC’s best, so will he have the desire to keep putting himself in danger?