UFC

Dustin Poirier v Conor McGregor: The Notorious' previous 'comeback' fights ahead of UFC 257

By Sports Desk January 22, 2021

'Mystic Mac' is back!... and not for the first time.

Conor McGregor steps back into the Octagon having not fought since knocking out Donald Cerrone after just 40 seconds at UFC 246 over 12 months ago.

That was supposed to be the first of three fights in 2020 for a rejuvenated McGregor, who had spent 14 months away following the ugly melee that followed his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018.

Then, of course, a global pandemic caused chaos to the world of sport and, in June, McGregor announced he was retiring from fighting, citing he was just not excited about the MMA game.

Fans of McGregor and the UFC had been here twice before and the scepticism that met his announcement was justified when it was confirmed the big-talking Irishman would face off against Dustin Poirier for the second time in his career.

Ahead of that bout on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi this weekend for UFC 257, we take a look back at McGregor's past 'comeback' scraps.


August 20, 2016 – McGregor beats Diaz by majority decision

In March of the same year, McGregor suffered his first loss fighting in the UFC after submitting to a rear-naked choke from Nate Diaz at UFC 196.

McGregor was slated to have his rematch against Diaz at UFC 200 but in April posted on Twitter: "I have decided to retire young. Thanks for the cheese."

Two days later, he clarified that he had not actually retired but had fallen out with UFC bosses over promotional work and the fight was pulled.

But the bout was eventually staged at UFC 202 in an absolute classic that saw McGregor avenge the defeat via majority decision.

McGregor floored his opponent in round one and Diaz was downed twice more in the second round, but the Irishman survived a series of brutal blows in the third.

Diaz scored a takedown late in the fifth but McGregor saw out the time with the three judges scoring it 48-47, 47-47, 48-47, leading to a famous declaration: "The king is back!"


January 18, 2020 – McGregor beats Cerrone by knockout

Five months on from the ugly aftermath of the Khabib defeat, McGregor announced, "I've decided to retire from the sport formally known as 'Mixed Martial Art'."

High-profile incidents away from the Octagon had plagued McGregor, while he also launched his 'Proper No. Twelve' whiskey brand.

Still, the lure of the UFC proved too much for one of the all-time greats and a focused McGregor was back to fight Cerrone in Las Vegas in a bout pitting two of the sport's most popular stars against one another.

McGregor put on an absolute clinic and a series of brutal blows led to the bout being waved off after just 40 seconds. It marked his first victory in the Octagon since November 2016 when he defeated Eddie Alvarez to win the UFC lightweight title and become the company's first ever dual champion.

After the fight, McGregor said: "I made history tonight. I set a new record. I'm the first fighter in UFC history to secure knockout victories at featherweight, at lightweight and now at welterweight - across three weight divisions, so I'm very proud of that."


January 23, 2021 – McGregor v Poirier?

"Hey guys I've decided to retire from fighting. Thank you all for the amazing memories! What a ride it's been!"

And with that McGregor was done... again.

But really we knew he wasn't, and once more McGregor will step into the Octagon against an opponent he is familiar with.

Almost seven years have passed since McGregor earned 'Performance of the Night' honours after the fight was stopped after one minute and 46 seconds of the first round when 'The Notorious' put Poirier on the back foot then caught his opponent with a huge left hook behind the ear.

So the question remains: how will McGregor fare on his latest comeback from 'retirement'?

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    Manchester United kept up their extraordinary form for coming from behind as they defeated Tottenham in Sunday's big Premier League match.

    Earlier, West Ham continued their push for a Champions League spot with a second straight 3-2 victory, this time over fellow top-four contenders Leicester City.

    In the late match, Arsenal moved up to ninth thanks to a routine 3-0 dispatching of lowly Sheffield United.

    Meanwhile, at the bottom, Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin returned to boost Newcastle United to a potentially crucial 2-1 win at Burnley, and we take a look at the best facts from Sunday's games, courtesy of Opta data.

    Burnley 1-2 Newcastle United: Super-sub Saint-Maximin snatches vital points

    Newcastle picked up their first win in eight Premier League games – since beating Southampton 3-2 at the start of February – as they came from behind to beat Burnley.

    Matej Vydra's third goal in his last five league appearances, as many as he had across his previous 53 appearances in the competition beforehand, put Burnley ahead, but Saint-Maximin proved the difference after the break.

    Coming on in the 57th minute alongside the returning Wilson, Saint-Maximin swiftly set up Jacob Murphy's equaliser – all three of the winger's league strikes have come away from home.

    Saint-Maximin scored himself five minutes later, becoming only the fifth player to both score and assist a goal as a substitute in a Premier League match for Newcastle, and first since Rolando Aarons against Tottenham in May 2016.

    In all competitions, Newcastle have failed to win any of the four matches in which neither Wilson nor Saint-Maximin have featured.

    With both of them playing, Newcastle have six wins from 13 matches, while without at least one of their star attacking duo, the Magpies have registered just two victories.

    West Ham 3-2 Leicester City: Lingard at the double as Hammers knock at the door

    West Ham have recorded their first Premier League double over Leicester since the 1999-2000 season, after Jesse Lingard inspired them to a 3-2 victory at London Stadium.

    Leicester have suffered consecutive league defeats for the first time since November, when they lost to Liverpool and Fulham, with Kelechi Iheanacho's double not enough to inspire a comeback.

    Iheanacho has scored 14 goals in all competitions this season, equalling his best tally in a single campaign; the Nigerian scored 14 for Manchester City in 2015-16.

    However, the damage was already done for Leicester, with Lingard's first-half double making him the first West Ham player to score in four consecutive Premier League appearances since Michail Antonio in September 2016.

    In only his his ninth Premier League appearance for West Ham, Lingard reached double figures for goals and assists combined (eight goals, three assists). It is the quickest a Hammers player has ever done so, with Paul Kitson previously reaching double figures the fastest (12 games in 1997).

    Jarrod Bowen scored what was ultimately the decisive goal, putting West Ham 3-0 up early in the second half at the culmination of a slick attack in which Lingard and Tomas Soucek combined.

    In 2021, only Man City (16) have won more Premier League matches than West Ham (10), who have picked up 32 points from a possible 45 this calendar year (W10 D2 L3).

    Tottenham 1-3 Manchester United: Greenwood closes in on Rooney record as Spurs give up another lead

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    Tottenham led in Sunday's headline fixture – Son Heung-min becoming the first player to score three or more goals against United in a single Premier League campaign since Sergio Aguero in 2014-15.

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    Mason Greenwood proved decisive, coming on from the bench to set up Cavani and then score one himself after Fred had restored parity.

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    United have gained 28 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season – in the competition's history, only Newcastle in 2001-02 (34) and United themselves in 2012-13 (29) have earned more points from such positions.

    Meanwhile, in English top-flight history, United's current 23-game unbeaten run away from home in the league (W15 D8) is bettered only by a 27-game run from Arsenal between April 2003 and September 2004.

    Sheffield United 0-3 Arsenal: Lacazette at the double as Gunners hunt Europe

    In Premier League history, only Chelsea (42) have beaten the side starting the day bottom of the table more than Arsenal, with this win the Gunners' 37th such victory (alongside Spurs).

    It was a comfortable win for Mikel Arteta's team, with Sheffield United having suffered their 25th league defeat of the season, the most by a non-newly promoted side since Huddersfield Town in 2018-19 (28). 

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    Paul Heckingbottom has seen his Blades side concede 10 goals during his three Premier League games in charge, the joint-most after a manager's first three games in the competition, alongside David Moyes (2002, Everton) and Christian Gross (1997, Spurs).

    Gabriel Martinelli's strike was his first Premier League goal of the season for Arsenal, and his first in 446 days since netting against Chelsea in January 2020.

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    In the English-speaking football world, there are few better means to share your deepest frustrations than those two-and-a-bit words. Defending, diving, transfer fees, haircuts – there is not a pet peeve in the modern game that can escape that withering proclamation, even if nobody knows how far away 'gone' really is.

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    Since Ronaldo departed the club in 2018, the Frenchman has stepped up to become the focal point in the front line. He has scored 21 LaLiga goals in each of the previous two seasons, while this term he is already up to 19. With plenty of games remaining, his career-best tally of 24, managed in 2015-16 despite making just 27 appearances, is well within his sights.

    If Madrid were to retain their title, his role was always going to be significant, despite the transfer speculation. Hopes of a second successive crown appeared distant, however, when they suffered a 2-1 defeat to Levante on January 30, at which stage the champions sat seven points behind Atleti, who also had two games in hand.

    Eder Militao was sent off in that Levante loss, dismissed after just eight minutes and 12 seconds. It was a short-lived third start in LaLiga this term, while the Brazilian defender had also been in the Madrid team that suffered a shock Copa del Rey exit to Alcoyano 10 days earlier.

    The big-money signing from Porto in 2019 had yet to convince in the Spanish capital, to put it nicely.

    His role may have remained as someone on the periphery of the first-team picture, too, had Zidane not suddenly been faced with a shortage of options to line up at the heart of his defence. However, with captain Sergio Ramos again sidelined and Raphael Varane self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19, Militao stepped up to show his value during a critical stretch for his club.

    The centre-back made a game-high six clearances on Saturday, as well as three blocks. Forget the heavy rain that beseiged Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano throughout the second half; a Barca tide came his way, yet - alongside Nacho - he made sure Madrid did not go under.

    Just like against Liverpool, the makeshift pairing defied expectations. A potential point of weakness has instead helped fortify the team, with a partnership born out of necessity helping to change the outlook ahead of the run-in. If they can do something similar in the second leg at Anfield on Wednesday, a double remains distinctly doable.

    Perhaps, too, Militao has shown that there can be life after Ramos, whose contract is fast running out at Madrid, just as there has been since Ronaldo said his farewells and headed for Turin.

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