Who Should Conor McGregor Face Next After Loss to Dustin Poirier at UFC 264?

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IJuly 11, 2021

Who Should Conor McGregor Face Next After Loss to Dustin Poirier at UFC 264?

0 of 5

    Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

    Conor McGregor was ravenous for a victory over Dustin Poirier in the UFC 264 main event, but his appetite went unappeased. 

    The Irishman started fairly strong, but Poirier promptly turned the tables with a takedown and began pouring it on from top position. The pair then returned to their feet, and in the final seconds of the first round, McGregor took an awkward step and seemed to break—or at least severely injure—his ankle.

    Moments later, Herb Dean was waving the fight off, giving Poirier a TKO win.

    In their respective post-fight interviews with commentator Joe Rogan, the pair differed on what actually happened. Poirier attributed McGregor's injury to a checked kick, while the Irishman dismissed it as fluke. 

    Whatever the case, McGregor is now on a two-fight skid, and worse, just 1-3 in his last four mixed martial arts contests. 

    Where he goes from here is incredibly difficult to say—particularly given the apparent severity of his injury—but keep scrolling for our best guesses. 


1 of 5

    Chris Unger/Getty Images

    This suggestion is going to sting for McGregor's legions of dedicated followers, but it's a possibility they should brace themselves for.

    McGregor is now on a two-fight skid, with four losses in his last seven Octagon appearances. That rough patch has unfortunately stripped away most of his remaining mystique. There are some interesting fights left for him, sure, but nothing that comes close to the blockbusters of his heyday, and so he may opt to ride off into the sunset with Euro notes fluttering from his pockets.

    Factor in the condition of his leg and it seems all the more likely. 

Nate Diaz

2 of 5

    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    The UFC deserves some credit for its handling of Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz's rivalry.

    The two fighters—both among the biggest stars in MMA history—fought twice in 2016, with Diaz winning the first encounter by submission and McGregor evening the score with a majority-decision win in their immediate rematch.

    Following those fights, the UFC could have easily served up a trilogy fight immediately. Instead, the promotion opted to hold off, perhaps recognizing that the trilogy would do big business any time and that it could therefore be saved for a later date. 

    That date might finally be upon us when McGregor is healed up, as he and Diaz are both riding back-to-back losses and are short on other options. Contrary to their recent skids, both men remain big stars, and with their fighting futures potentially on the line, the stakes of their trilogy couldn't be higher.

    If McGregor opts to continue fighting, there's no bigger fight for him than this one. 

Tony Ferguson

3 of 5

    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    While a Diaz trilogy is the biggest option for McGregor at this stage, it's not the only one.

    The skidding Irishman could also be matched up with Tony Ferguson.

    McGregor and Ferguson spent their coinciding heydays at the top of the lightweight division. While they nearly collided in 2017, when McGregor was the undisputed champion and Ferguson held the interim strap, the fight never materialized. 

    In 2021, they are once again in each other's orbits. 

    McGregor, as anyone who watched UFC 264 knows, is now on a two-fight skid and in dire need of a win. Ferguson is in a similar boat—perhaps an even less seaworthy one. He's lost his last three fights, having been soundly beaten by Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush.

    Pit these two former lightweight power players against each other in a pay-per-view main event, and trust that the loser's time near the top is over for good.

Islam Makhachev

4 of 5

    Brandon Magnus/Getty Images

    From a competitive vantage point, Nate Diaz and Dustin Poirier are probably the fiercest rivals of McGregor's career. In terms of sheer virulence, however, the Irishman's rivalry with former lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov takes the cake. The two lightweight stars have long regarded each other with the hostility of the cobra and the mongoose.

    Nurmagomedov, of course, is happily retired, with no comeback plans on the agenda. He also dominated McGregor in their lone Octagon encounter. Needless to say, it's extremely unlikely they ever fight again. 

    That being said, Nurmagomedov's close friend and training partner Islam Makhachev—a man widely hailed as the former champ's second coming—is currently situated at No. 9 in the UFC's lightweight rankings. Having lost to Poirier, McGregor is likely to fall from his previous perch at No. 5—and he might just encounter Makhachev as he tumbles. 

    The fight would make sense from a rankings standpoint, and Makhachev's connection to McGregor's arch-nemesis would make it a saleable attraction.

Dustin Poirier

5 of 5

    Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

    Dustin Poirier is now 2-1 across his three fights with Conor McGregor. Sure, his UFC 264 win over the Irishman was fairly disappointing, but he certainly looked like he was on his way to an impressive win one way or the other.

    Based on all of that, the likelihood of a fourth fight between these two lightweight stars feels scant—but it's still a possibility.

    McGregor certainly made it quite clear in his post-fight interview with commentator Joe Rogan that he's not finished with Poirier. Unfortunately for him, this one is likely to come down to what Poirier wants, and after back-to-back wins over the Irish superstar, the American is probably ready to move onto other things—like a lightweight title shot against Charles Oliveira. 

    All that to say: Poirier vs. McGregor is unlikely—but not impossible.