Is Conor McGregor making the UFC rethink Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier title fight?

Conor McGregor
Image: Conor McGregor on Instagram

A significant level of discomfort must be setting in for UFC interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier. There has yet to be an official word on his pending undisputed championship fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Conor McGregor is somewhere out there talking.

Crazy things typically happen when the loose lips of the brash Irishman start to flap. He baited boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. into a multi-million dollar fist fight, while sweet talking UFC President Dana White into letting him put his title defending duties on hold. He even talked his way up a weight class and skipped out on offering the greatest featherweight champion in UFC history, Jose Aldo, an immediate title rematch after knocking him out in 13 seconds at UFC 194.

So it would be no surprise if beads of sweat are slowly trickling down the back of Poirier’s neck. The silence grows more deafening by the day, and Conor McGregor, the man without a throne, still wears the crown when marketability is concerned.

“Everything is pointing to it happening in Abu Dhabi, September 7, me and Khabib,” Poirier said, during an appearance on MMA Junkie Radio. “I’m not sure what the holdup is or what’s going on. I have no clue.”

Confusion is usually the first symptom of a man on the brink of being robbed blind. There is no certainty that’ll be the case for Poirier, although it’s starting to feel like something is amiss with the proposed Abu Dhabi bout.

McGregor, not Poirier, is the one trending in news headlines with talks of an ongoing war with Nurmagomedov. McGregor, not Poirier, was the contender being discussed at length by Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless during Wednesday’s episode of FOX Sports’ Undisputed. McGregor, not Poirier, already has the built in story line and notoriety to turn a fight with Nurmagomedov into the most lucrative event in UFC history.

What better way for the UFC to coax fans into buying ESPN+ than offering the one fight they can’t turn down?

Gentlemen agreements have been shaky over the years in the UFC, and fighters can’t bank on anything unless pen has been put to paper. All Poirier has is the UFC’s word that he’ll be next in line for an undisputed title fight, but plans change all the time to fit the desires of the consumer, especially in the prize fighting business. Former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic was about to get leapfrogged by WWE star Brock Lesnar, who hadn’t even fought in nearly three years, in a title fight with Daniel Cormier. The fact that Miocic was the most successful heavyweight in UFC history didn’t seem half as important as chasing the surefire blockbuster fight Lesnar and Cormier would have created.

Perhaps the UFC is thinking along those same lines with a potential rematch between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov. The idea of striking while the iron is hot eliminates the outside chance of an upset, assuming both fighters take another bout, potentially derailing what has swelled into a rivalry of epic proportions.

And then there’s the second option: The UFC putting its foot down and reminding fight fans they still give a damn about order in their divisions.

Dustin Poirier, Max Holloway
Image: @BlessedMMA on Twitter

Poirier worked his way up the ranks and defeated Max Holloway for the interim title, which should serve as his golden ticket for a shot at Nurmagomedov. He is even listed as next in line in the UFC’s own rankings on their official website. Yet, he remains on an island with no confirmation on the biggest fight of his life, which is believed to be a little over three months away.

One might even argue the replacement belt’s existence in the first place, if McGregor is allowed to jump to the front of the line. Did anyone really think McGregor and Nurmagomedov went through all of that fight drama to simply shake hands and part ways in the end? The MMA world knew a rematch was coming the moment Conor McGregor tapped out and Team Nurmagomedov turned the T-Mobile Arena floor into a scene out of “Avengers: Infinity War.” There is unfinished business between the two larger-than-life stars, and yet, the UFC still opted to go the interim title route.

There could be a bevy of reasons why the fight between Poirier and Nurmagomedov has yet to be made official, and perhaps the UFC will offer up more news on that matter in the near future. However, their continued silence, along with McGregor’s persistent campaigning for an immediate rematch, does raise the possibility of the gears moving in the opposite direction.

It’s a direction that potentially leads to a world tour to aggrandize the hype. It’s the only path that guarantees colossal pay days for everyone involved—the UFC, sponsors and fighters. It’s the road towards the inevitable conclusion of the most volatile feud in MMA history.

How unfortunate that it also leaves a deserving contender like Poirier standing and waiting in the cold—an unhappy, yet common occurrence for a fighter that sits on the throne but doesn’t wear a crown.