This weekend at UFC 264, we will see the trilogy fight between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
Conor won the first encounter way back in 2014 when the two competed in the Featherweight division. Fast-forward seven years and Conor was making yet another return to the octagon against Poirier in the division that both men now call home, Lightweight. This time, Dustin dismantled McGregor for majority of the fight through a slew of leg kicks and strong punches ultimately leading to the second round TKO. But what changed between the first two fights other than the weight class? The answer is Conor’s trash talking and his overall change in attitude. Leading into their third fight, Conor has begun his trash talking again, and here is why.
In their first fight, Conor was one of the fastest rising stars the sport had ever seen. Dustin was treated as a gate-keeper of sorts for Conor on his path to the Featherweight Championship. The belief was that if Conor could get past Dustin, he would be ready for then champion Jose Aldo. Conor did indeed defeat Dustin, then Dennis Siver, then Chad Mendes to capture the Interim Featherweight Championship, then Jose Aldo to become the Undisputed Featherweight Champion. The common theme for all of these fights and the fights even before Dustin was Conor’s incredible way of mentally breaking down his opponent before the fight through his use of trash talking. Dustin has even admitted to Conor’s trash talking getting to him and affecting his performance inside the cage. Conor’s trash talking prowess as well as his incredible skills inside the octagon, carried him to becoming the UFC’s first ever simultaneous two-division world champion. However, this all changed around the Khabib Nurmagomedov fight.
From the middle of 2016 through to the middle of 2018, Conor McGregor was at the height of his powers. Conor had avenged his loss to Nate Diaz which he had taken on short notice in a division he had never competed in, he captured the Lightweight Championship, and had made ridiculous amounts of money in a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. Though at the time his MMA career was uncertain, Conor made it known he would be making his return to reclaim the throne he once held. Conor would be challenging the current champion at the time, Khabib Nurmagomedov, for the Lightweight Championship. Due to some hostilities between the two that would need their own article to explain, Conor took his trash talking to a new level against Khabib. Conor took the trash talking way too far in some instances which began to turn fans against him. Then when Conor ultimately lost to Khabib, followed by the viral video of McGregor punching an elderly man in a bar, fans were getting sick of McGregor’s antics.
To Conor’s credit, he began to clean up his act and toned down the trash talking. He made his return against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and the two were more than cordial to one another. Conor showed a level of respect to Cowboy that he had never shown to another opponent. After winning that fight, Conor took what seemed to be a forced hiatus by the UFC during the COVID-19 pandemic despite wanting to compete. Ultimately, the UFC relented and booked a mostly empty arena show headlined by Conor McGregor versus Dustin Poirier. Again, Conor treated Dustin with the utmost respect in the lead up to the fight. This mental clarity for Dustin, as well as the years in which he had been becoming one of the sport’s most incredible fighters, led to Dustin defeating McGregor. Conor, never being one to take a loss quietly, went to regroup and go back to the drawing board for the trilogy.
We saw the seeds of “the old” Conor McGregor being sewed at the post-fight press conference after their most recent fight. He began to stir the pot about the trilogy right then and there. Leading up to and during fight week, Conor began laying into Dustin on social media. Conor’s old trash talking ways were back. At the time of writing, the two have not had their pre-fight press conference, which will be live at 5pm EST on Thursday, July 8th. The McGregor of old should be on full display here and time will tell if his trash talking ways will lead him to victory on Saturday night.
Photo: via Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC