Conor McGregor's 2020 fell well short of his expectations. He had planned to fight at least three times, with one of those being a rematch against Khabib Nurmagomedov for the UFC lightweight championship.
Instead, McGregor fought for a total of 40 seconds, which was how long he needed to beat the fading Donald Cerrone on Jan. 18. The coronavirus pandemic interrupted McGregor's plans for the rest of the year, and he became so frustrated that he tweeted he was retiring -- again.
So consider 2021 a mulligan for McGregor, who will look to get back on track in UFC 257, scheduled for Jan. 23. He'll have his rematch, but it won't be against Nurmagomedov, and it won't be for a title. He'll face Dustin Poirier, who fell in just 1 minute, 46 seconds via TKO against McGregor in 2014.
Poirier has won 10 fights since then, beating some of the best in the UFC, including Justin Gaethje, Max Holloway and Dan Hooker. McGregor went on to become the biggest star in UFC history, establishing himself as the first UFC fighter ever to hold two belts simultaneously.
So what will the rematch hold? This page will be continually updated with news, features, social media posts and more, as McGregor vs. Poirier 2 is set to headline on "Fight Island."
With relationship repaired, Dana says 'real' Conor is back
UFC president Dana White says his relationship with Conor McGregor is solid going into 2021, after hitting a "bad place" in the second half of last year.
The relationship between the UFC and McGregor started off on a high note in 2020, as McGregor headlined the UFC 246 pay-per-view against Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone on Jan. 18. He knocked out Cerrone in just 40 seconds. McGregor had said he intended to stay active with three fights in 2020, but it ultimately ended up being his only appearance of the year.
Khabib-Conor rematch? White still sees a possibility
As a fan of the sport, White said he'd love to see Nurmagomedov fight "10 more," but hinted his goal, for now, is to get him to return for just one. Should McGregor beat Khabib, White has made it no secret he would love to book a second fight between Nurmagomedov and McGregor. The two met for the title in October 2018, and Nurmagomedov won via submission in the fourth round.
"As a promoter, you always want to see the best guys in the world, but at the same time, when a guy wants to retire, he probably should," White said. "The difference with a guy like Khabib is he's been through so much, and losing his dad was a major blow to him. Yet, his dad wanted him to hit 30-0.
"No matter what you think of Conor personally, Conor McGregor is not only one of the best in the world, but one of the best to ever do it. And right now, he's as focused as he's ever been. I don't know if this is going to be the same Conor after the Poirier fight, but if this Conor sticks around for the next year, how do you not do Khabib vs. Conor again?"
Best shape of his life? McGregor's nutritionist encouraged
Every time Conor McGregor fights, he creates a buzz that no other UFC fighter can come close to reaching. And as he prepares for his UFC 257 main event on Jan. 23 against Dustin Poirier, part of that buzz is centered on how strong McGregor has looked in some of his social media posts.
McGregor hasn't fought at the lightweight limit of 155 pounds in over two years, since losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov on Oct. 6, 2018. And while McGregor admits he was undisciplined for that training camp, the opposite appears to be true as he gets ready to head to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
McGregor returned to Ireland three weeks ago after spending the first six weeks of his camp in Portugal, and some are saying he's in the best shape of his life.
Khabib sees McGregor-Poirier winner on title track
Khabib Nurmagomedov said he believes the winner of the UFC 257 main event between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier on Jan. 23 will fight for the UFC lightweight belt. He did not, however, name an opponent for that potential title fight.
Nurmagomedov remains the lightweight champ despite retiring after beating Justin Gaethje on Oct. 24. He was asked during an interview with the Russian outlet Match TV if there's a chance he'll fight again in the UFC, and according to the transcript Match provided, he said: "I would not want that."
Some originally thought Nurmagomedov was indicating that McGregor vs. Poirier would be for the title, assuming it was vacant. But Nurmagomedov's manager, Ali Abdelaziz, clarified that what the champ meant was he believes the winner of the Jan. 23 bout will fight for the title.
McGregor's gesture puts gym owner in tears
Philip Mulpeter posted bad news recently on Instagram. The gym he owns, SBG Portarlington in County Laois, Ireland, would have to close its doors because of financial concerns brought upon by COVID-19 lockdowns in the country.
"We've had three lockdowns now, and I think after each lockdown it's hard to get the same numbers back in," Mulpeter told ESPN. "People lose the routine and just our numbers were dropping. Every time there was a new lockdown, we got deeper and deeper into debt. ... Our landlord wasn't giving us any break on the rent or anything like that. We had to decide to shut the doors for good."
Then in stepped Conor McGregor.
See which of the two is ranked among ESPN's P4P top 10
There was a time when Conor McGregor was considered one of the best fighters on the planet, with a future that could make him the GOAT.
But a lucrative sidetrack to box Floyd Mayweather Jr. derailed those plans on Aug. 26, 2017. Was it a temporary derailment? The answer might be revealed in 2021.
Meanwhile, Dustin Poirier has been busy and successful, beating some of the best in the world.
One of these two was ranked among the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
This is the most compelling fight to open 2021
The UFC begins 2021 with what should be a featherweight thriller: former champion Max Holloway taking on Calvin Kattar on Jan. 16, with the winner possibly earning a title opportunity. Four days later, the UFC could see a welterweight title challenger emerge.
But the fight everyone is looking forward to will be on Jan. 23, when Conor McGregor returns to face Dustin Poirier.
Real or not: If McGregor wins, Khabib rematch is next
Helwani: I definitely think the UFC will explore the possibility of Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor 2 next year, if McGregor beats Poirier Jan. 23. After all, we know that was the UFC's plan/hope for 2020 before, well, you know the rest.
I mean, could you imagine if Nurmagomedov is going for 30-0 against McGregor? No joke, I think that could generate close to 3 million pay-per-view buys, which would make it the highest-selling PPV in UFC history. It would be massive, and the UFC would undoubtedly explore it. The UFC knows how big this is. But first, McGregor has to get by Poirier, which is no easy task. Poirier is a much more confident and better fighter than the one McGregor beat over six years ago.
McGregor's journey: Success, controversy, star power
UFC president Dana White remembers the first time he heard the name Conor McGregor, a name that would forever change the promotion.
White was in Dublin to receive an award from Trinity College in 2013 when he invited UFC fans on Twitter to join him at a nearby pub after the ceremony. Drinks would be covered by the UFC president.
It was that night, Feb. 11, when he first heard a name that would become the most talked about in UFC history.
"The place was packed, full of people," White said. "I was in there with the fans all night, and everybody kept talking about Conor McGregor."
Sept. 27, 2014: The first time they fought
Conor McGregor (16-2) made quick work of another UFC featherweight, knocking out Dustin Poirier with a grazing left hand at 1:46 of the first round.
There was some controversy over whether McGregor hit Poirier (16-4) in the back of the head with his elbow as he followed through, but referee Herb Dean made no such signal, and Bob Bennett, Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director, told ESPN.com the elbow landed to a legal area of Poirier's head.
"He caught me with one, but other than that I feel good. I'll have to go watch it back, but it felt great," McGregor said.
"I'm honored to hear a percentage of the tickets were bought in Ireland and my countrymen came to support me. When one of us go to war, we all go to war. Our countrymen have been fighting our whole lives. This is where we come from."
-- Brett Okamoto
What they're saying
I promise a masterpiece.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) January 5, 2021
John Kavanagh believes the result of Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor's first fight will be hard to forget for Poirier. pic.twitter.com/X6fXJ7bQNp— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) December 27, 2020
Belts. New divisions. New rivalries.— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) November 23, 2020
In the six years since their first meeting, Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor have chalked up serious resumes 🔥 pic.twitter.com/san4UYPEeD
Dana White to meet with Khabib to discuss one more fight
Dana White tells Brett Okamoto that he intends to sit down with Khabib Nurmagomedov to possibly convince him to take one final fight.
Get ready for the return of Conor McGregor
Take a look at the moments inside and outside the cage that made Conor McGregor the biggest name in the UFC.
Did the UFC make the right fight for McGregor with Poirier?
Ariel Helwani and Marc Raimondi discuss if Dustin Poirier is the right opponent for Conor McGregor, as Helwani implores people not to sleep on Poirier.
Poirier says loss to McGregor changed his perspective, made him stronger
Dustin Poirier explains how after his loss to Conor McGregor in 2014, he began to change his perspective on fighting and that made him happier overall in life.
Flashback: Conor McGregor's first ESPN interview
Go back to August 2014 when Conor McGregor hyped up his fight vs. Dustin Poirier and proclaimed that he was going to take over the sport.
McGregor's strong fan base impacting betting line vs. Poirier
Doug Kezirian explains why Conor McGregor's fans placing a wave of bets on him to beat Dustin Poirier is impacting the odds.