Initially, White indicated McGregor would get another shot at Poirier after the former interim champ fought for the undisputed belt now held by Charles Oliveira. But then he walked back any definitive plan for the immediate future of the lightweight division.
With Poirier and Oliveira set to meet in the near future and McGregor’s recovery timeline uncertain due to a broken leg, there are too many variables in play.
“It sucks,” White said at the post-UFC 264 press conference. “It’s brutal. It’s not the way you want to see fights end. Dustin Poirier will fight for the title, and when Conor is healed and ready to go, you do the rematch, I guess. I don’t know.”
UFC fighters have suffered bone fractures in three of the past four pay-per-view events; at UFC 261, ex-middleweight champ Chris Weidman suffered a broken leg when his opponent Uriah Hall checked a low kick. At 262, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza had his arm broken by an armbar.
McGregor’s injury occured near the end of the round after he and Poirier got back to their feet and both threw punches. Poirier said he caused the injury when he checked an early kick from McGregor and the bone later gave way.
White said the former two-division champion will go into surgery on Sunday morning to repair his leg. Weidman is still recovering from his injury and said he could be sidelined from training for up to one year, so it seems likely McGregor is in for an extended layoff.
That said, White didn’t see Poirier’s first-round win via doctor’s stoppage as definitive.
“The fight didn’t get finished,” he said. “You can’t have a fight finish that way, so we’ll see how this whole thing plays out. Who knows how long Conor is out, so Poirier will do his thing until Conor’s ready.”
Even the general trajectory of the fight didn’t convince White that the result would have been the same without the injury. Poirier had McGregor trapped against the fence and was raining down heavy elbows near the end of the first round, but the UFC exec said the Irish star wasn’t out of the fight.
“He got back up on his feet and started throwing punches,” White said. “His ankle snapped from throwing punches. He was fighting back. It wasn’t like he was up against the cage and defenseless and was unloading on him.”
Poirier scoffed at the idea of an immediate rematch with McGregor if he was successful against Oliveira; the former two-division champion’s record – one win was enough to disqualify him from a shot at the title. He also acknowledged that any big McGregor win would probably set up a title shot.
For White, Saturday’s ending was as much about the perception of what happened in the octagon as the actual outcome.
“The storyline is, oh, Conor broke his ankle instead of Dustin looked good,” he said.
When the circumstances are right, the UFC exec will try to bring a more emphatic ending to the lightweight rivalry.
“The rematch is there,” he said. “You’ve got the rematch with him like you’ve got the rematch with [Nate] Diaz. It’s always going to be there. I don’t know what the landscape’s going to look like when he’s ready, so to say definitively, I can’t, right here, right now. But you always have that rematch.”