Conor McGregor Looked Past Poirier Rematch at UFC 257, Wanted Pacquiao Boxing Match

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 8, 2021

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 23: Conor McGregor of Ireland prepares to fight Dustin Poirier in a lightweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Conor McGregor said his focus had already shifted to a potential boxing match against Manny Pacquiao before his January fight against Dustin Poirier at UFC 257, which is why he suffered a second-round knockout loss.

"I pitied the man," McGregor told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith in an interview released Thursday. "I was looking past him. I had a Manny Pacquiao camp in place."

McGregor beat Poirier at UFC 178 in September 2014 with a dominant first-round technical knockout, and he explained his respect for the 32-year-old American didn't allow him to enter the rematch with the same level of intensity. He told Smith that's no longer the case ahead of Saturday's trilogy fight.

"I'm coming in to kill this man," the former featherweight and lightweight champion said. "I'm coming in with vicious intent here. Mortar shots. What else can I say? That's the way it is. ... I'm looking to take this man out cold."

Meanwhile, the Pacquiao boxing match never came to fruition, and the 32-year-old Irish sensation confirmed boxing is "not even on the radar at the minute." Instead, he's focused on earning a title shot against lightweight titleholder Charles Oliveira by taking care of business against Poirier.

"I am a nice guy," McGregor told Smith. "It's just about not translating it into the game. You can't be nice in this business. No matter what. ... In the most ruthless business of all, I am the most ruthless."

"The Notorious" was one of MMA's most dominant fighters along with one of the biggest draws in all of combat sports at his peak, as he compiled a 19-2 record to start his career.

While his bouts still attract plenty of attention, in large part because he's able to sell fights by building hype like few others can, his performance has dipped. He's posted a 3-3 record in his last six matches and has only entered the Octagon three times since November 2016.

The question heading into Saturday's fight is whether a renewed focus solely on MMA can vault him back to that elite level.

As for Poirier, he explained to ESPN's Brett Okamoto he's hopeful the trilogy fight turns into a brutal battle because he believes that's when his talent can shine through most:

"I want my blood-and-guts war. I want to question my will to fight. I want to be uncomfortable from the first second of the first round. I want to find out all this stuff. That's the thing about fighting, the only thing that's real is when that bell rings. It's the only real part about fighting that I love anymore. Everything else is who can get likes on Instagram. It's all fake.
"But the real part is when that bell rings, it's 100 percent now. I want to show him that and find that out about him. Talk it up, say this and that, but let's find out who really wants to fight. Because I know I can count on me."

UFC 264, with McGregor vs. Poirier as the main event, will take place Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.