Conor McGregor Will Be The Elephant In The Room At UFC 242

by 11 months ago
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Presented in partnership with UFC 242 on ESPN+

Even when he’s not fighting, “The Notorious” Conor McGregor continues to be the biggest story in mixed martial arts.

Internationally infamous and the most popular fighter in UFC history, McGregor will loom large at UFC 242. With former foes Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov and Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier headlining the Pay Per View main card on ESPN+, how could he not?

It should come as no surprise that Nurmagomedov will answer questions about McGregor during fight week. The rivals headlined the UFC’s all-time highest-selling Pay Per View last year and engaged in a wicked post-fight brawl on the floor of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

McGregor will forever be part of Khabib’s backstory.

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See, the Las Vegas brawl resulted in fines and suspensions that have kept Nurmagomedov out of competition for the last 11 months, while McGregor’s kept busy peddling his Proper 12 Whiskey brand every chance he can.

Truthfully, the focus of UFC 242 fight week should be on this cracker of a lightweight title unification bout between Khabib and Poirier. It’s such a killer contest between two absolutely wicked MMA fighters. No doubt it’s worthy of its ESPN+ Pay Per View spot, but chances are, McGregor’s name will be dropped at every twist and turn throughout fight week.

With McGregor recently sitting for a rather lengthy interview which aired on ESPN to address his fighting future and his renewed interest in returning to the Octagon, the conversation eventually shifted to a rematch with Nurmagomedov. At this point, honestly, it’s kind of clear that McGregor should work his way back into the title picture rather than receiving an automatic title shot, but we’re living in an age where money fights can supersede merit, and wherever there’s McGregor, there’s always money … plenty of money.

One fighter who did take the more traditional approach to earn a UFC title shot is Dustin Poirier. Currently the UFC interim lightweight champion, Poirier actually fought in the Octagon 21 times, including six headlining bouts, before earning his first crack at a UFC title. He won nine-fight night bonuses and finished three former world champions in a row before receiving the call to fight for a belt, and Poirier seized the opportunity, delivering a Fight of the Night performance to top current featherweight champion Max Holloway and claim the interim strap at UFC 236.

Now that’s how you solidify your place in the UFC pecking order.

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Poirier’s story is actually one of the great slow builds in UFC history. He’s a guy who lost some pivotal fights in his day, only to bounce back, improve his skills, and work his way up to a title. Still, there will be people who remember him as the guy with the “pea head” who got knocked out by McGregor’s left hand in 2014.

Again, McGregor enters the discussion, this time from the opposite angle.

It’s a bit unfair to judge Poirier by the McGregor fight. That was nearly five years ago, and both athletes are completely different fighters at this point.

Both Poirier and McGregor actually struggled to make the 145-pound featherweight limit, and the move to lightweight has done wonders for “The Diamond” in particular, who has bulked up and become one of the hardest hitters at 155 pounds.

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The McGregor fight was actually the end of the line for Poirier at featherweight, so it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that “The Notorious” knocked him out of the division, but at lightweight, “The Diamond” has looked better than ever, especially on this current four-fight win streak, in which he has topped both Holloway and Eddie Alvarez, a pair of former McGregor foes. And should Poirier manage to become the first man to beat the undefeated Nurmagomedov, it’s probably the best chance McGregor has to earn an immediate title shot.

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With McGregor mostly making headlines for all the wrong reasons these days, his ghost will be front and center at UFC 242, and he’ll no doubt make an appearance on Khabib’s highlight reel package before “The Eagle” makes his walk to the Octagon for the Pay Per View main event on ESPN+. But beyond the visual of Khabib cranking Conor’s neck, McGregor will be there in spirit, although it’s highly unlikely that his Proper 12 Whiskey will be available in Abu Dhabi, a city that will be heavily supporting Khabib as he attempts to unify the lightweight title.

So whether you’re a fan of “The Notorious” or not, make sure to wake up early for the UFC 242 Pay Per View main card on ESPN+ to watch one of the biggest title fights of 2019. The outcome could very well affect McGregor’s future plans in the UFC.

UFC 242 Pay Per View Main Card on ESPN+ (11 a.m. PST / 2 p.m. EST)*

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier
Edson Barboza vs. Paul Felder
Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos
Curtis Blaydes vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov
Mairbek Taisumov vs. Diego Ferreira

UFC 242 Prelims*

Khalid Taha vs. Bruno Silva
Teemu Packalen vs. Ottman Azaitar
Joanne Calderwood vs. Andrea Lee
Sarah Moras vs. Liana Jojua
Belal Muhammad vs. Takashi Sato
Nordine Taleb vs. Muslim Salikhov

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