McGregor and Poirier make weight for blockbuster clash
Conor McGregor weighed in alongside three of the other top lightweight contenders on Friday ahead of UFC 257 but the name on everyone’s lips this week has been Khabib Nurmagomedov, the retired champion in that weight class whose successor has yet to be crowned.
McGregor tipped the scales in Abu Dhabi at 155 pounds for his main event match-up with Dustin Poirier, and Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler also made the lightweight limit for their co-main event.
The former two-division champion was the first fighter to the scale and he showed up at championship weight. Poirier also successfully hit the mark at 156 pounds to make the rematch official.
In the first meeting between Poirier and McGregor at UFC 178 in September 2014, McGregor defeated Poirier by first-round TKO.
McGregor (22-4) was last seen demolishing American welterweight Donald Cerrone (36-15) via a knockout in just 40 seconds at UFC 246 in Las Vegas last January 18, a feat that made him only the second-ever UFC fighter to score knockouts across three weight divisions (featherweight, lightweight and welterweight).
While only his second fight in four years, it was the type of explosive, all-action performance that has lifted McGregor to the top of the fight game.
The Dublin-born fighter, who once received welfare payments, holds a slew of other records and achievements in MMA that attest to his continued importance to both the sport and to the UFC.
There is no title up for grabs on Sunday, but the victors from those bouts will likely contest for the belt in their next match, provided Khabib does not return.
UFC president Dana White has been making no secret of the fact that he would like to see Nurmagomedov, who retired undefeated after beating Justin Gaethje last October, come back for a lucrative rematch with McGregor.
The Dagestani beat the Irishman via submission in 2018 in the main event of the most successful pay-per-view card in the organisation’s history.
However, Khabib’s father and coach Abdulmanap passed away in July last year and though the fearsome wrestler took the Gaethje fight, he promised his mother not to enter the octagon again without his father in his corner.
White has said that Nurmagomedov would consider a comeback if any of the four lightweights on Sunday’s card can show him something worth getting back in the cage for.
Yet his long-time training partner and friend Daniel Cormier, a former UFC two-weight champion, says it will take a lot for him to return.
“I think for Khabib, it’s got to be something competitively. His financial position is so different. I just think it’s not going to be money any more,” Cormier told reporters at a UFC press event on Thursday.
“(It would take) something competitive that goes ‘wow, this makes me want to put everything else aside and prepare for a fight!’, because that’s what it takes.”
Meanwhile, the weigh-ins were not without drama however, as two fighters did not make it to the scale and two others missed weight on their first attempts.
Officials announced early in the proceedings that Ottman Azaitar was out of his main card lightweight bout with Matt Frevola due to “a recent violation of the health and safety protocols involving” Azaitar, per the UFC. Frevola still showed up and made weight at 155.5 pounds, according to MMA website report.
A middleweight matchup between Andrew Sanchez and Makhmud Muradov is expected to open the pay-per-view main card with the cancellation of Azaitar-Frevola.
Lightweight Nasrat Haqparast did not make an appearance during the two-hour weigh-in window and he will not be competing on Saturday. Officials later announced his withdrawal was due to an illness. Haqparast’s scheduled opponent Arman Tsarukyan also had difficulties, coming in three pounds over the lightweight limit at 159.
Tsarukyan was given an additional hour to cut weight, but could only make it down to 157 pounds on his second attempt. However, a matchup between Frevola and Tsarukyan has been arranged with Tsarukayn forfeiting 20 percent of his purse to Frevola, sources with knowledge of the change told MMA Fighting following an initial report by TSN.
Khalil Rountree also came in heavy, weighing in 0.5 pounds over the 205-pound limit (including a one-pound allowance for non-title fights). He was given an additional hour to make weight and successfully did so on his second attempt, coming in at 206 pounds.