One of the biggest questions UFC president Dana White has asked regarding Conor McGregor and his future in fighting is how much he’s dedicated to the sport now that he’s sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars.
Following his 2017 boxing match against Floyd Mayweather that netted McGregor a reported payday of over $100 million, White wondered if he’d ever actually return to compete again.
After McGregor suffered a second-round TKO loss to Dustin Poirier back in January, White couldn’t help but wonder if the lavish lifestyle that the Irish superstar has been living — including his arrival to the event in Abu Dhabi on a massive 300-foot yacht — had perhaps caught up to him when it came time to fight again.
Now just days away from McGregor’s return at UFC 264 where he will face Poirier for a third time, White believes he’s seeing a different hunger and fire in the former two-division champion as he seeks to avenge that loss from earlier this year.
“Conor looked damn good in that first round [against Poirier]. I don’t know how well he prepared for that fight,” White told McGregor’s website The Mac Life. “I don’t know what he did. I don’t know the difference between his training camp for that fight or this fight.
“I can tell you this — from what I can see, he’s taking this fight a lot more serious than he did the last fight. He’s basically shut down. He’s in his own little world doing his thing. He feels like the old Conor McGregor.”
While McGregor has never avoided showing off what his huge fortune has afforded him in terms of lifestyle, the now 32-year-old father of three has largely kept his head buried in a training camp in order to prepare for Poirier ever since their fight was made official.
McGregor has also ratcheted up his trash talk towards Poirier after the lightweights were essentially cordial towards each other while smiling and shaking hands during every interaction prior to the last fight.
White knows McGregor will need something to change in order to turn the tide against Poirier in the trilogy, because the No. 1 ranked lightweight in the world according to MMA Fighting, will be coming to take his head off on Saturday night.
“Only Conor knows what Conor needs to tweak and fix and do,” White said. “I can tell you this, you know Poirier is training down Florida with savages everyday. He wants this fight worse than anything.
“You’ve got to look at being hungry. There’s no doubt that Poirier has to be more hungry than McGregor. He wants all the things McGregor has.”
In order to close the book on his rivalry with McGregor this weekend, Poirier actually passed up on a title shot after the belt was vacated following Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement.
As much as the championship might mean in the grand scheme of things, White believes Poirier made the right call passing on the title fight in order to throw down with McGregor for a third time.
“He was criticized for taking this fight and not taking the title fight. He absolutely, positively did the right thing,” White said. “This is the fight to take.
“It was the right thing to do. Cause if he can win on Saturday night, he wins the trilogy against McGregor and then he moves onto fight for the title anyway. A lot more people know who he is after this fight.”
Most likely, McGregor vs. Poirier 3 will determine the next title contender at lightweight no matter who wins, although White has learned his lesson on making any declarative statements before the fights actually happen.
“I think so,” White answered when asked if McGregor or Poirier would be next for the title. “It’s not set in stone. Anything can happen after the fight who knows but yeah it makes sense.”