Fighting returns to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi at UFC 257 as it also is the return of Conor McGregor.
In the main event, Irish superstar McGregor (22-4) will take on No 2-ranked Dustin Poirier in a rematch of their 2014 bout, while reigning division champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is expected to be cage side.
The winner will be one fight away from regaining the lightweight title both men have held in recent years.
McGregor now struggles to conjure the trash-talking, flamboyant persona that once made him more famous than anything he had yet achieved in the octagon. Now financially secure and raising a young family, McGregor still lives a wild life at times, but it is cushioned by a growing sense of his finite time left in sports — despite his brash pronouncements of youth — and his evaluation of his legacy.
“All the money, all the belts, all that comes and that goes,” McGregor said. “You know what lives on? A fighter’s highlights. Look at Roy Jones Jr.’s highlights, Mike Tyson’s highlights. I still look at them today. Ali’s highlights. I want my highlight reel to be like a movie. That’s what I’m after. I’m looking to get in and perform and put on amazing highlights that I can sit as an old man with my son, and just watch back and just enjoy life.”
When McGregor knocked out veteran welterweight Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in just 40 seconds last January, he seemed set for a ferocious return to the sport he had largely neglected for the previous three years. McGregor spoke of wanting to fight four times in 2020, culminating in another shot at lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The pandemic understandably curtailed those plans.
Despite dropping 15 pounds from his last fight, McGregor appears comfortable and healthy at 155 pounds, where he has won just one fight in his career, beating Eddie Alvarez in 2016 to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two division titles simultaneously.
McGregor and Poirier were even smaller — two up-and-coming featherweights — when they met in September 2014 in the third-billed bout at UFC 178. McGregor stopped Poirier just 1:46 into the opening round, landing a big left hook to the ear that ended the action swiftly.
Poirier (26-6) could have been crushed by the loss, particularly while he watched McGregor’s ascent. Instead, he won nine of his next 11 fights, even capturing the interim lightweight title for 4 1/2 months in 2019 with an impressive win over Max Holloway.