While the end result was TKO victory, Poirier’s longtime head coach Mike Brown said that they prepared for a number of potential scenarios in the fight with the understanding that there were a number of ways to get the job done.
“It really went how we wanted it mostly,” Brown told MMA Fighting on Thursday. “We thought we should kick and wrestle early and then box in later rounds once the pop is gone off Conor’s punches. The plan was to wrestle and kickbox early, use his length, use his kicks early and we figured in the third round or so is when we planned to start boxing, but we didn’t get to that point. He was landing shots before that.
“We also knew or felt that Dustin could win a lot of ways. There’s a lot of different ways he could have done it. We didn’t know if it was going to happen. I mean he’s got the power also to hurt guys, to knock them out early. So we knew he could get an early knockout. We knew he had the ability to damage him with the calf kick. We know he had the ability to catch him in a [submission], he’s got very good subs. We knew he had the possibility of winning by decision. We knew he could win in many ways. Conor has his ways, too. We knew there were also ways to lose the fight. We felt that we had more ways to win.”
Ultimately becoming the first fighter in MMA to finish McGregor with strikes was an added bonus to Poirier’s growing resume of accomplishments. Brown was also quick to point out that coaches like Dyah Davis and Thiago Alves also played a key part in getting Poirier ready to deliver that knockout.
Afterward, the fighters were nothing but respectful toward each other. But McGregor was also quick to welcome a potential trilogy after Poirier evened the series at one apiece; back in 2014, the Irish star finished Poirier by first-round TKO.
Because the recent rematch reportedly sold approximately 1.6 million pay-per-views, making Poirier vs. McGregor 2 the second highest-selling UFC card of all time, it would be no shock if the promotion wanted to cash in immediately on a trilogy.
Of course, Brown understands why a third fight might make sense right away as well, though he knows deep down Poirier has bigger ambitions than just facing McGregor again and again.
“I think all depends on what Dustin wants,” Brown said. “Obviously it was big. It was the second biggest pay-per-view of all time. That’s certainly a reason. They are split 1-1, so it does make sense in some ways.
“But really what Dustin is fighting for is to be the world champion. I think he wants to take time, relax, enjoy his family and not think about anything right now and just enjoy it. But I know really what he wants more than anything else is to have that undisputed world champion title to his name.”
For all the reasons Poirier had to celebrate his win at UFC 258, the only downside was the knockout didn’t come along with a title being wrapped around his waist at the end of the night.
Despite current UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov announcing his retirement this past October, UFC President Dana White insisted on keeping Poirier vs. McGregor 2 as a non-title fight as he attempted to convince the undefeated Russian to return to action.
After the event ended, White admitted that it didn’t sound likely that Nurmagomedov would fight again. Now, the UFC is stuck trying to come up with some kind of alternative with Poirier already widely recognized as the best lightweight on the active roster.
“It was tough because that really, with Khabib retired, that should have been a title fight,” Brown said. “I feel like we’re in a similar situation with Yves Edwards years ago. He was the uncrowned champion when they kind of got rid of the title and the division was in limbo and he fought Josh Thomson. That legitimately should have been for the vacant lightweight title, and he won that fight and looked great. He doesn’t officially have that to his title, UFC champion.
“But I think a lot of people feel that way with Dustin. I think a high percentage of the experts and the other athletes, he’s the guy. He was the No. 1 guy going into that, he was the No. 1 contender. Conor was the former two-division champion, definitely a fighter worthy of that fight. Biggest draw in the sport ever. That really should have been a title fight.”
Just minutes after securing the win over McGregor in Abu Dhabi, Poirier wasn’t ready to commit to anything regarding his next fight.
Since that time, Poirier has gone on social media calling himself the “uncrowned champion” as further testament to his belief that the fight with McGregor should have allowed the lightweight division to move forward with Nurmagomedov clearly not intending to compete again.
Brown can’t help but agree and now the onus falls back on the UFC to somehow make it right with his charge.
“It kind of feels like he’s the uncrowned champion,” Brown said. “His resume is unbelievable. Look at how many former champions he’s beaten and in this last stretch of fights. It’s an unbelievably tough schedule that he’s had. He beat [Justin] Gaethje, former world champion. [Anthony] Pettis, former world champion. Eddie [Alvarez], former world champion. Conor, two-division world champion. Max Holloway was the current featherweight champion.
“This is just back-to-back-to-back. It’s an incredible stretch over very tough opponents. He feels like he’s in that position as the uncrowned champion.”