New Delhi: When Conor McGregor announced his retirement from fighting on June 6, 2020, almost no one expected it to last. The fiery Irishman has previously seemed close to leaving the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) behind but such are the competitive and financial gains still to be made that there remained an expectancy that McGregor would come back when the time was right. Indeed, those expectations were fulfilled and the man who once held both the featherweight and lightweight championships will be seen back in the octagon against Dustin Poirier in what will be the main event of UFC 257.
The fight is an interesting one since it is a rematch from 2014, when McGregor emerged victorious at a time when his ability and drawing power for the UFC were starting to be noticed. However, Poirier has improved a lot since then and has a 10-2 record in fights since coming out on the losing end of that bout against the ‘Notorious’ McGregor.
Naturally it remains to be seen whether or not McGregor can put in a repeat of that performance or if Poirier can win a match that is of importance to the UFC lightweight division due to champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s decision to retire in October.
Indian MMA fighter Nelson Paes, who has fought and won bouts in the Desert Force Championship, believes McGregor remains a favourite to win this bout. However, he does believe that Poirier would stand a chance of winning if he could take the fight beyond the first round.
“Technically speaking McGregor has always been very strong on his hands – if he gets to you, he gets you. Him and Poirier have fought in the past and they’ve both grown as fighters since then and have achieved a lot,” Paes told News18 Sports.
“Both are strong fighters but I would go with McGregor. However, if the fight goes on for more than a round then Poirier will have a strong chance of winning as his size and strong chin will hold him in good stead.”
McGregor remains a formidable opponent but appears to be a changed man. Once known for indulging in psychological warfare with his opponents, the Irishman has come across as more relaxed in recent times and even praised Poirier ahead of their bout.
It’s a stark contrast from the man who repeatedly belittled Nurmagomedov ahead of their highly-anticipated clash, where McGregor suffered a humbling defeat at the hands of ‘The Eagle’.
Paes believes McGregor is now past the point of being extremely brash and cocky but retains the ability to thrive under pressure.
“McGregor has been able to master the ability of dealing with pressure when it comes to his bigger fights. It helps that he is a different character now; he’s a lot more mellow,” said Paes.
“McGregor had, in my opinion, reached a point wherein he was doing things he felt was right but ended up upsetting others.
“Many other sportsmen have been in that phase but it seems McGregor is coming out of it.”
Whether his new-found attitude leads to a second wave of success and kickstarts a new era of dominance remains to be seen.
UFC 257 is LIVE on January 24, 2021, on SONY TEN 1 and SONY TEN 3 (in Hindi) channels from 8:00 AM onwards.