UFC 264 Aftershock: Poirier’s Cruel Kiss of Karma

UFC 264 was like a metaphoric flight with a great takeoff, but a crash landing was what closed the show. The end of UFC 264 was probably one of the greatest moments of sports entertainment that you could witness. That’s right. It was “sports entertainment” and not martial arts. Any martial artist knows that even in the cage, especially after a defeat, boundaries exist.

“You never want to get a win that way, but what happened was a result of checking a kick,” Poirier told MMA Junkie at a post-fight news conference. “I’m more than sure of it, and he got what he had coming to him. Karma’s a mirror, and I busted my ass for so long to put myself in this position. I doubled down on myself after beating him in January when they offered me a title shot. I doubled down on myself, and it paid off.”

Nevada, United States – 10 July 2021; Conor McGregor during his lightweight fight with Dustin Poirier during the UFC 264 event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. (Photo By Thomas King/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The spectacle of MMA turned into the more cheeky and brash spectacle of sports entertainment the moment Joe Rogan broke one of the fan-driven premises. Never interview an injured fighter, especially after a humiliating defeat. Unfortunately, Joe Rogan subconsciously masterminded a possibility to continue this now-toxic rivalry when he awkwardly sat down with the seething Irishman.

McGregor expressed ill-will to the Lafayette native Dustin Poirier and his wife while reluctantly acknowledging his injury. Karma had blown McGregor a bittersweet and cruel kiss, leaving him spiteful and embarrassed while somehow leaving the door open for a rematch. Let’s explore the Pandora’s Box that good ol’ Joe opened and what lies ahead.

There’s a saying that goes: “Let the players play, let the haters hate, and let karma handle their fate.” If this wasn’t Dustin Poirier’s mantra for the UFC 264 fight week, nothing else could be as close. Conor’s fans all wanted to see the resurrected version of McGregor, who had to build the anti-hero persona, made order out of chaos, and made the Mystic Mac predictions. But in reality, he had dug up that toxic persona who fought Khabib. That persona is known for McGregor’s signature front kick when he faces off with his opponent.

Looking at the fight, Conor McGregor had the right approach. He reminded Poirier this was not going to be a replay of the second fight but rather the first fight with his additional striking tools. But the fundamental principle that Conor has steered from that ultimately makes him deadly is patience. Conor leads well, but not well when it’s only him dancing, per se. Conor’s success came from leading, laying the bait, and pouncing on the prey for victory. But all of this was successful five years ago. MMA is a young and growing sport with a new age on the horizon, and it will carry on without you.

His over-aggressiveness and impatience lead to his downfall. Whether he broke his leg on a checked leg kick (which he wasn’t even landing properly) or broke it on the teep kick right before the break, karma had placed a kiss of betrayal on McGregor. McGregor had compound fractured his tibias like Anderson Silva and the very recent Chris Weidman. It was as plain as white, but the door to the rivalry was closing with now declared Doctor’s Stoppage.

LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 09: Joe Rogan in attendance in front of a packed house at the UFC 264 ceremonial weigh-in at T-Mobile Arena on July 9, 2021, in Las Vegas, NV, United States. (Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Enter Joe Rogan.

Joe Rogan has always been present for UFC commentary for any big shows/PPV. He is considered to be a cornerstone for the UFC with the work he had accomplished with them. On his podcast, the “Joe Rogan Experience,” he made an adamant point that he would never interview a fighter who had lost by knockout/injury, ever since his infamous Daniel Cormier interview. No professional media member would consider the option, mindful of providing the due courtesy to the fighter. Joe Rogan and his mic essentially carried the key to forcing the door open for a rematch.

Conor McGregor saw the book to the rivalry closing. But, he needed to keep the door open to get his final licks in without any unnatural incidents. So, seeing Joe Rogan sit down uncomfortably next to him, McGregor made a choice that effectively changed the night’s storyline. In pro-wrestling terms, he went full heel.

With his back against the cage, looking at his broken limb, seeing the mic in front of him, Conor had made his decision. It was as if Conor had signed a contract by speaking into the mic and sold his soul to the devil. For one last chance at Poirier, he would abandon his morals to get even with the Diamond.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JULY 10: Conor McGregor of Ireland is carried out of the arena on a stretcher after injuring his ankle in the first round of his lightweight bout against Dustin Poirier during UFC 264: Poirier v McGregor 3 at T-Mobile Arena on July 10, 2021, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

It was shocking to see ESPN, which Disney owns, allow McGregor a platform to say what he said. It was low-class, a desperate attempt at a Hail Mary. But, he could implant a rematch clause into the rivalry’s storyline because of the McGregor fanbase. The UFC has plenty of fires to put out after the antics he pulled from the ceremonial weigh-ins and main event entrance, where he didn’t wear UFC-sponsored gear.

For rising stars like FOTN fighters Sean O’Malley and Kris Moutinho, McGregor’s antics overshadowed and underwhelmed what a fantastic display of heart, courage, and skill was. Also, after the main event, everyone seemed to forget about the Bam-Bam Shooey Special from Tai Tuisvasa after his KO of Greg Hardy. Many more moments were swept under the rug after the main event ended so anti-climatically.

Now here’s the good news about Conor McGregor cutting the promo the way he did. He has laid the groundwork to get a potential title shot if all pieces fall in his favor. Dustin Poirier can win the UFC Lightweight Championship in his next fight against new champion Charles Oliviera. If Conor can finish the Nate Diaz trilogy, he has the influence to call for the Poirier rematch with the title up for grabs.

No matter how long time passes, one thing that will never disappear is the Conor McGregor effect. As the notorious Irishman says, “Say it as it is.” He has built one of MMA’s core foundations as an overall entity that it stands on; he made the UFC promotion/marketing team what it is.

UFC 264 felt like a birthday party with the crowds back and highlight finishes. The main event was the cake we were waiting for. Somehow, the cake got dropped, and the party was ruined. Dana White and the UFC already know that a quadrilogy is possible. Hopefully, Conor fans can see him resurrect himself in a more evolved state as a fighter. After last night, it looked as if Conor was one-dimensional.

A traumatic experience for one man, a bittersweet moment for another. Not how anyone saw it ending, and left a sour aftertaste in many. What could be awaiting us in the fourth chapter of this rivalry?

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Kevin Varghese

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