If you are a fan of the UFC, or even someone who just keeps up with sports in general, the name Conor McGregor should be ringing some bells. And if you’re a fan of the UFC, then you have probably heard of Dustin Poirier. Both are extremely good fighters and are atop the UFC’s lightweight division. They fight on January 23, in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi for UFC 257.
The lightweight division is arguably the best division in the entire UFC and has recently been ruled by the great Khabib Nurmagomedov. He most-recently fought in October and kept his belt after submitting Justin Gaethje via a 2nd round triangle choke. After that fight though, he honored a promise he made to his mother and retired. Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap, died from a battle with Coronavirus in July. He always wanted Khabib to go 30-0 before retiring but Khabib retired at 29-0 because of his mother. He also said it was harder to go through with the training camp and the fight without him.
After the retirement of Khabib, fans and analysts around the world said McGregor vs Porier should be for the lightweight title. Dana has been against that though, because he thinks Khabib will honor his father’s wishes and try for 30-0. Dana and Khabib had a meeting recently in Abu Dhabi to discuss Khabib possibly coming back. Even if there is a slight chance Khabib comes back, this fight should be at least be for the interim belt.
An interim belt is a fight to be the interim title holder while the real champion is either not fighting or can’t. As of right now Khabib says he is retired, but since Dana still thinks there is a chance of a return — making it an interim title fight so the division will have an active belt holder. Interim fights happen a lot, and Poirier was once an interim belt holder after beating Max Holloway in April of 2019. He then fought Khabib for a chance at the undisputed title and lost via submission as well.
Most PPV main cards usually end with a title fight as the main event, except if it’s Conor McGregor headlining. McGregor is easily the UFC’s biggest star, making more money in PPV’s he’s in than any other fighters. He returned to the UFC for his first fight since his loss to Khabib in 2018 and fought Donald Cerrone in January of 2020. He beat him in 40 seconds, and it was the highest bought PPV of 2020 at 1.3 million. Anytime he fights, the UFC will make a lot of money, but if you make it for a title, the UFC would make even more money. Everyone knows Dana is all about making money, and that’s one reason why he underpays his fighters, so why not make it for a title to make more money.
Both fighters are atop of the division. Khabib is still listed as champion, but Dustin is the second-ranked lightweight and Conor is the fourth. Justin Gaethje is ranked first, but he just fought in October against Khabib. Dana said he’s working on a fight for Gaethje with it possibly being a return for Nate Diaz. The third-ranked fighter is Charles Oliveira who is just coming off a dominant win against Tony Ferguson in the UFC’s last card of 2020. With those two fighters possibly occupied or having just fought and Khabib supposedly being in retirement, McGregor/Poirier is the perfect matchup for the lightweight interim title.
Even though this fight won’t be for the interim belt, it is very likely that whoever wins it will be next in line for a title shot. If Khabib is retired for good, then it is most-likely that the next title fight in the UFC’s lightweight division will include Poirier or McGregor vs a couple possible opponents. It would probably be one of the other top five ranked lightweight fighters or Nate Diaz, which Dana hinted at.
As McGregor and Poirier emerge as the most-qualified candidates to be champion, under the current circumstances, their fight will be more like a title fight than anything. And it’s time that we as an MMA community start treating it like so.