Conor McGregor is about to headline U.F.C. 257 in opposition to Dustin Poirier, and the Final Preventing Championship and its enterprise companions would like that McGregor, the 32-year-old Irish star, stick round this time.

McGregor final fought 53 weeks in the past, blowing out Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds and organising a possible big-money rematch in opposition to the light-weight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. However then the coronavirus pandemic scrambled these plans. Nurmagomedov defeated Justin Gaethje in October after which retired instantly afterward. 

McGregor campaigned to return to the octagon however couldn’t line up a bout till a most important occasion in opposition to Poirier got here collectively.

However the upside, for the U.F.C., of McGregor’s yearlong absence is that it has been capable of promote the combat — scheduled for early Sunday in Abu Dhabi, or Saturday night time in america — as a comeback. And the U.F.C. is paying McGregor and Poirier as if their most important occasion is an important day.

Final 12 months, McGregor earned a $three million assure for blowing out Cerrone, who was assured $200,000. This weekend McGregor (22-4) will earn a minimal $5 million, whereas Poirier (26-6, 1 no contest) is assured $1 million. These figures don’t embody efficiency bonuses or the share of pay-per-view income headliners sometimes obtain.

However the numbers inform you how significantly the U.F.C. is taking the occasion — its first for pay-per-view in 2021 — and the way a lot it values the viewers McGregor attracts for so long as it may be sustained.

The pay-per-view card bought by ESPN+ in america begins at 10 p.m. Jap, with a preliminary card beginning at eight p.m.

The B-side: He exists.

The deal with McGregor makes it straightforward to neglect Poirier, however it takes two to combat, and his seven-figure assure tells you he’s a severe competitor and never only a dummy for McGregor to pummel.

Poirier, 32, has received six of his final eight fights — a stretch that features one no-contest and wins over top-echelon fighters like Justin Gaethje and the previous featherweight champion Max Holloway. Poirier misplaced to Nurmagomedov, however lots of fighters do this — together with McGregor.

In 2014, Poirier misplaced to McGregor, then a rising U.F.C. star, by first-round knockout. And in 2011, Poirier was featured in “Fightville,” a documentary analyzing the combined martial arts group in Lafayette, La.

It’s Chandler time.

The light-weight contender Michael Chandler will make his U.F.C. debut when he faces New Zealand’s Dan Hooker in Saturday’s different most important occasion, however he’s not a rookie. Chandler has a 21-5 report and a fame as a talented wrestler and a flexible combined martial arts fighter.

Final 12 months, he signed with the U.F.C. after a decade with the rival promoter Bellator. In October, he served as an understudy for the primary occasion between Nurmagomedov and Gaethje. He educated as if he had been going to combat and even weighed in on the 155-pound light-weight restrict, so he might fill in instantly if some last-minute disaster sidelined both headliner.

This can be a match.

It'd assist to think about the 2 fights atop U.F.C. 257 as a playoff bracket, with Chandler and Hooker on one facet and McGregor and Poirier on the opposite. Chandler’s worth, in any case, is that if he wins impressively, he supplies one other high-stakes choice for McGregor later this 12 months, offered that McGregor wins as nicely.

That matchup, after all, isn’t assured. A 12 months in the past, U.F.C.’s president, Dana White, spoke overtly of matching McGregor and Nurmagomedov in a soccer stadium. One 12 months, one pandemic and one retirement later, it seems that a rematch may by no means occur. So proper now, McGregor-Chandler seems just like the medium-term aim.

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