For history, for legacy: Why UFC 264 is the biggest fight of Conor’s career

Since Conor’s McGregor inception on MMA’s mainstage in 2013, the sport has been an absolute whirlwind and is undoubtedly a different place from where he found it. Despite that sensationalism, time hasn’t been the kindest to the sporting ventures of the Irishman, leaving him with a mixed bag compared to the buzz he rode in on. 

Time out from the Octagon hasn’t and never will favour a distant contender, for which Conor has paid the price in the form of his last three fights, spanning over almost three years. In a new era, post-Khabib Nurmagomedov, the top of the UFC lightweight rankings has never found itself in a more significant situation than it is at this moment.  

While Dustin has stayed put and been on a rampant path since their initial meeting in 2014, the stock the Diamond has made for himself is nothing short of deserved. The path to gold is never straightforward. Poirier’s path has been one you haven’t been able to look at any other way than inspiring and through the work he has showcased, makes him a valid threat to anybody atop of the UFC’s best 155lb scrappers.

But, see, in any normal Conor McGregor fight week, there’s predictions, pageantry and excitement galore. Everybody, under normal circumstances, can’t wait to see what Conor will do on Saturday night. The overwhelming majority seeing how he will win on the night. For many, for a long time, the thought of Conor losing was ludicrous. 

For years he was thumping his way to victory in devastating fashion, declaring his finish beforehand and becoming a ‘Mystic Mac’ in the process when pulling it off as predicted. For a long time, Conor was in and out of the Octagon before we knew it and returning only months later. 

The shiniest moments of the ‘McGregor era’ were a very fun place to live in for those who basked in showcases and entertainment. A promoter’s wet dream. But while he knocked out Jose Aldo in thirteen seconds and personified a masterful two-round performance in Madison Square Garden, the game hasn’t been the same both with and without ‘The Notorious’ one.

I hate to put time into perspective, but the Aldo fight? Over six years ago. The Alvarez fight; nearly five years gone by. Time flies by and in this game, your moment doesn’t shine too bright for too long, especially in an ever-evolving sport like mixed martial arts. 

So while Poirier’s latter years are proving to be his brightest, it’s no surprise to see him the favourite heading into the rubber match. This is by no means to rule out McGregor, but given his recent performances and his last loss in January to Poirier in the rematch – also being the first knockout loss of Conor’s career – this is a significant fight in the story of the Irishman’s career.

Conor has a lot to answer to, as well. In January, the method wasn’t successful and looked almost what he stated about his fellow lightweight combatants in 2015 being ‘stuck in the mud,’ being open to Dustin’s utilities frequently more than the fast-paced knockout artist we’d seen in years gone by. 

McGregor isn’t the sort of competitor, given his status, to pick a fight without meaning. There will always be fights on the table for Conor for as long as he wants them, but if Conor wants to be taken seriously as a potential crown holder again at lightweight, there has never been a bigger fight in his life than on 10th July in Las Vegas – a city synonymous with his greatest moments could well see his greatest sporting downfall. 

If you flip the coin no less, if we see the right Conor McGregor on that Saturday night, you never know just what might happen. Conor, on his day, is a force that few can handle – especially in front of a packed house in the T-Mobile arena. Relaxed, talking to you, timing your movement to use against you, he’s a different person altogether. It’s all about can he or will we see that magic again on an occasion no bigger than this.

It’s a different Conor fight week. It’s a must-win Conor fight week.