Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier on January 23, 2021 at UFC 257?
In the famous words of McGregor himself from the build-up to his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather, “Sign me up!”
And, in McGregor’s case, that’s exactly what he asked the UFC to do after UFC president Dana White told ESPN that it was January 23 or bust if McGregor wanted to fight Poirier anytime soon.
“I accept, Jan 23rd is on!” McGregor wrote on Twitter. “My goal is to see this fight take place in Cowboy stadium. Proper Style! Jerry Jones is a friend and the stadium can hold our crowd. I will be ready for Texas and Texas will be ready for my fans!”
Poirier took to Twitter to respond to McGregor’s sentiment, expressing his excitement for the chance to fight the “Notorious” one close to both Poirier’s hometown and birthday.
With all of that said, it seemed like an easy move for the UFC, right? Book arguably the sport’s biggest star in a massive main event to kick off 2021, a year that the company hopes will go much differently than 2020?
If only it was that simple, as McGregor and the UFC found out in the months leading up to the major development on October 14.
Six years after their first fight against each other in 2014, McGregor and Poirier began stirring the pot for a potential rematch, with both planning out dates for the end of the year.
The problem for both fighters? Neither McGregor or Poirier handles the UFC’s calendar. Dana White does.
So, there were talks about a date in November. But, the company has UFC 255 scheduled for November 21, with two title fights already booked for the card.
How about mid-December then, right? The UFC already has UFC 256 planned for December 12, and the card also has two title fights already scheduled.
While casual fans may wonder why the company would simply not add McGregor to one of those cards, or bump other fighters around to accommodate the Irishman’s conditions, White let everyone know that it isn’t that simple.
“That’s not how it works,” White told ESPN. “We laid out this year. [McGregor] was retired. Would anybody disagree he was retired? Through this crazy pandemic year we’re going through, we faced a lot of challenges. There were a lot of things done to make this thing work. We made it happen. We have our schedule laid out. Fighters have committed to it. Fighters have started training for these fights.
Even with all of those dates laid out and work already completed, White was willing to put in the extra effort to book one of his promotion’s biggest names of all time.
“Conor came back and wants to fight Dustin, so we went out and got him his own date,” White said.
After White laid down the ultimatum, McGregor put out his response on the night of October 14, and quickly got the question from Poirier about what weight the fight would be held at.
As quickly as everything and everyone seemed to be moving, there’s a fitting phrase that needs to be said when discussing any McGregor fight, especially one that he wants to hold down in Texas.
“Hold your horses.”
Throughout 2020, there have been loads of rumors surrounding McGregor’s MMA future.
There was the potential for him to be a replacement for an originally-scheduled fight between lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. There was the chance for him to fight Nate Diaz in a massive rematch, or battle a fresh opponent like Justin Gaethje. There was even noise around a potential superfight against UFC legend Anderson Silva, or a rematch with boxer Floyd Mayweather.
Then, the rollercoaster went the other way, as McGregor said on Twitter that he had “decided to retire from fighting” in June of 2020.
“Thank you all for the amazing memories!” he wrote. What a ride it’s been!”
In all of those cases, nothing truly came of it. He didn’t fight Nurmagomedov, Ferguson, Diaz, Gaethje, Silva, Mayweather, or even boxer Manny Pacquiao.
And, apparently, he didn’t retire, as he continued to train and push for dates with the UFC for a return to the Octagon.
Now, even as he put out on Twitter that he “accepted” the Poirier fight on January 23, 2021, there was another newsworthy nugget to consider: the fact that McGregor wanted the fight to be held in AT&T Stadium.
Citing the desire to fight in front of fans, McGregor put out his “goal” to have the bout held in the Cowboys’ stadium, even mentioning his relationship to the team’s owner, Jerry Jones.
“Jerry Jones is a friend and the stadium can hold our crowd,” McGregor said. “I will be ready for Texas and Texas will be ready for my fans!”
After all of the work the UFC put in to get the January 23 date hammered out, it appeared as if there were more battles to be had with these negotiations.
Booking AT&T Stadium for an event like this would be chaotic under normal circumstances, let alone in the middle of a pandemic. Add in the limited capacity that the stadium even has for the Cowboys’ regular season games in 2020, and the potential for any widespread audience diminishes more and more.
It’s a detail that could have served as another perfect foil for him to use with this matchup after all of the back-and-forth that went on in the weeks leading up to the October 14 tweet.
Instead, MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin reported on November 10, 2020 that the bout was agreed upon and officially booked, set to take place on UFC 257 in January.
If the fight goes on as scheduled, UFC fans would be in for quite the treat. A rematch six years after one of McGregor’s signature wins, with the Irishman returning from more than a year away from the Octagon.
On the other hand, fans would get to see the new and improved Poirier, who has turned into a star in the lightweight division since that last fight with McGregor in 2014. He has taken down a who’s who in the division throughout his career, including Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Pettis and Dan Hooker, and has battles with Khabib Nurmagomedov, Max Holloway and more on his resume.
It would be the perfect non-title main event that the UFC needs at the moment, giving McGregor a skilled striker for a top-tier opponent, and giving Poirier a massive fight that he has earned after a long and successful career.
And, it would set either up well for a potential title shot down the line in 2021, if everything goes according to plan.
It’s a bout with a lot of history from a fighting perspective, let alone from the trials and tribulations in 2020. If it goes off without a hitch, it could go down as one of the best in UFC history. If it runs into issues, then the UFC, McGregor and Poirier are back at square one, all left looking for answers after a rollercoaster of a year.