The bookies made a killing after Dustin Poirier earned a shock victory over heavy favourite Conor McGregor at UFC Fight Island on Saturday night.
The Notorious was the 1/3 favourite to win the fight, having beaten Poirier courtesy of a devastating first round knockout when they first locked horns in 2014. Poirier had won 11 out of 14 fights since that bout, which saw him land a well-deserved rematch, but most punters expected McGregor to cruise to victory.
McGregor opened as the 2/5 favourite with many bookmakers when news of the fight was first announced. Yet he dropped to 2/7 with many betting sites and 1/3 with others after the bulk of the action went on him securing victory.
William Hill reported that 84% of the money wagered was on the Irishman. FanDuel, the U.S. arm of Paddy Power Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment, said it took several large wagers on McGregor, including one for $188,900, while Australian spread betting operator PointsBet took a $100,000 bet on the Notorious.
“McGregor has always been a big draw, and pretty much whatever's in the pot right now is on McGregor,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill, on Friday. “I would imagine that we’ll need Poirier pretty good. Every parlay will be going to McGregor that day for sure.”
McGregor started well in front of 2,000 fans in Abu Dhabi. He emerged unscathed from an early takedown and pinned Poirier against the fence for most of the first round, landing several punishing shoulder strikes. Yet Poirier fought back with some devastating leg kicks and unleashed a flurry of punches in the second to secure a famous triumph.
McGregor had seen very little action since taking on Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a lucrative boxing bout back in 2017. He lost to the unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018, and he then beat Donald Cerrone inside just 40 seconds in January 2020.
Poirier appeared to be the more disciplined and professional fighter, but many felt that McGregor’s raw talent would allow him to get the job done. Poirier admitted that McGregor won the mind games ahead of their 2014 bout, which was his first knockout defeat, but he earned redemption on Saturday.
“The first time I was a deer in the headlights. This time he was just another fighter that bleeds just like me,” said Diamond. “The goal was to be technical, pick my shots and not brawl at all. Then I had him hurt so I went a little crazy.”
There was a lot of mutual respect in the build-up, and McGregor only expressed his disappointment after the fight. “I'm gutted, it’s a tough one to swallow,” he said. “I felt stronger than him, but his leg kicks were good. I didn't adjust.
“My leg was badly compromised, I’ve never experienced those low calf kicks, and I wasn’t as comfortable as I needed to be. I have no excuses. It was a phenomenal performance by Dustin. I have to dust it off and come back.”
Poirier could now earn a shot at the vacant UFC lightweight title. UFC president Dana White has been unable to persuade Nurmagomedov to come out of retirement to defend the title, so it looks as though it will be up for grabs. Poirier could end up fighting three-time Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler for the belt, after Chandler knocked out Dan Hooker in the co-main event at UFC 257.
As for McGregor, his path forward is unclear. He said he would be back, and he is still just 32 years of age, so he has plenty of time to banish the painful memory of this defeat. Betfair has 7/2 in him becoming UFC welterweight champion before January 2022, which is interesting. Kamaru Usman is currently the welterweight champion.
Another option could be to dip back into boxing, where a lucrative fight against Manny Pacquiao awaits. The Filipino fighter posted on social media before the fight: “Good luck tonight Conor! Let’s make 2021 the best year ever for fight fans.” Paddy Power and Betfair have 1/7 on Pacquiao, who is now 42 years old and serves as a senator in the Philippines, winning that fight, and 9/2 on McGregor.