Conor McGregor handed UFC rankings blow as Irishman dealt pound-for-pound snub

UFC: McGregor hones kickboxing skills in garden

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UFC star Conor McGregor’s start to 2021 has been largely disappointing, with the 32-year-old kicking off the new year with a surprise defeat at the hands of lightweight rival Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi. He was primed for another shot at undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in the event of a win, but was brutally knocked out in the second round by ‘The Diamond’ after taking serious damage as a result of the American’s leg kicks during the opening stages.

The result left McGregor’s hopes of a sensational rematch with Khabib, or even a return to the boxing ring to face Manny Pacquiao, in tatters with a trilogy fight against Poirier likely to be the Irishman’s next move.

Shortly after the bout, he was stripped of his status as a top five lightweight according to the official UFC rankings, falling behind the likes of Poirier, Tony Ferguson and Michael Chandler in the pecking order.

The organisation have since embarrassed McGregor even further by removing any trace of his name from their pound-for-pound list, which is currently topped by Khabib despite the Dagestani fighter’s retirement in October of last year.

The Dublin native was replaced on the 15-strong list by new bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling after the latter’s victory at UFC 259 on Sunday.

Sterling was handed the win over Petr Yan by way of disqualification after the Russian threw an illegal knee at the start of the fourth round.

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Elsewhere on the list, light heavyweight title holder Jan Blachowicz leapt from 14th to eighth, defending his belt against Israel Adesanya in UFC 259’s main event.

McGregor’s latest blow marks another twist in the tale as the Irishman’s downward spiral continues.

He rose to international stardom in December 2015 when he stopped long-term featherweight champion Jose Aldo with a rapid-fire knockout inside 14 seconds, stealing the Brazilian’s belt in the process.

He then became the ‘champ champ’ when he claimed the lightweight title with a win over Eddie Alvarez less than two years later.

However, McGregor has since been plagued by a couple of damaging defeats that appear to have rocked his ability to compete at the very top.

The most comprehensive of these was in 2018 when Khabib delivered a merciless dismantling of the controversial Irishman, dominating the fight with his ground game before forcing McGregor into submission with one round to go.

He came back to beat Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in early 2020 but went a full year without entering the Octagon before Poirier’s victory in January.

A third fight against the latter appears to be a formality in order to settle the scores, with both men tied at 1-1 after McGregor’s first-round knockout when the pair met for the first time seven years ago.

John Kavanagh, who coaches McGregor, has suggested that his fighter needs some work if he wants to restore his dominance over the American, but believes that another quick finish could be on the cards.

“I would love to see a couple of rounds, so that I can see some of the sequences we’ve been doing,” Kavanagh told The Independent. “Some of the stances, new techniques, clinch work, some stuff on the ground.

“I hope Dustin is the one to bring that out of him, but it could be an Aldo, it could be a ‘Cowboy’ – it could be over in seconds.”

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