LAS VEGAS -- Dana White smiled as he prepared to enter the media tent outside T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, enjoying another major UFC success, with a live gate that approached $17 million and what was almost certain to be a big pay-per-view number for UFC 264.
It was far from a perfect ending, of course. His most bankable star was just finished inside the distance -- again -- and while Conor McGregor will likely be back, he suffered a gruesome left foot injury in his second consecutive stoppage loss to Dustin Poirier for the Irishman's third defeat in four fights.
White was concerned about McGregor's injury, but the UFC president also was ready to discuss something McGregor could look forward to upon his recovery: a fourth meeting with Poirier, who has become his bitter rival.
The kind of singular marketability McGregor carries will ensure that he continues to land choice opportunities, including the fight he insisted he wanted against Poirier. With his left leg was encased in an Aircast, McGregor told Joe Rogan, who sat down on the mat next to him to conduct the in-cage interview after the fight, "This is not over. If I have to take this outside with him, it's on outside."
Poirier later echoed those sentiments: "We are going to fight again, whether it's in the Octagon or the sidewalk."
White pointed out that it wasn't like Poirier stopped McGregor with punches.
"His ankle snapped from throwing punches," White said of McGregor. "He was fighting back. It wasn't like he was up against the cage with Dustin unloading punches on him. If his ankle doesn't break, I think we get to the end of the round."
Dana White leaves door open for Poirier-McGregor rematch
Dana White says he cannot confirm, but a rematch between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor is possible.
White confirmed that Poirier will get the next shot at recently crowned UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira. The UFC veterans -- Oliveira has fought 28 times inside the Octagon since his debut in August 2010, while Poirier has 26 fights in the UFC after debuting in June 2011 -- each grinded a long time to reach this point, and each of them appears to be peaking simultaneously.
The Brazilian fighter told ESPN through an interpreter after the bout that the Poirier fight could take place in December.
"It's really sad what happened [to McGregor]. But if you look at Poirier's game, he's been improving a lot, he's been putting a lot of pressure, so he deserves the win," Oliveira said before Steve-O interrupted to pay his respects to the champ.
"I'm not impressed by anyone; I'm the one impressing people," Oliveira added. "I'm making new history for everyone."
Shoey with a kick
Tai Tuivasa danced his way to the Octagon while the Spice Girls' "Wannabe" blared through T-Mobile Arena. Moments later, he had his back to the cage as former NFL All-Pro Greg Hardy briefly stunned Tuivasa and went in for the finish. And that's when Hardy met his demise, courtesy of a counter left hook.
The Aussie immediately channeled "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, straddling the top of the cage as someone slung him a can of a beer, which he promptly poured into a Nike and then into his mouth. Tuivasa has made the shoey, a popular celebration in Australia, his postfight ritual.
And he wasn't done. As he walked away from the cage, Tuivasa accepted a shoey from a fan out of a black shoe, but it was more than Tuivasa bargained for. There was plenty of beer, but the fan also dabbed in a bit of Poirier's Louisiana Style Hot Sauce. Tuivasa immediately looked disgusted and patted his tongue as he continued his exit, presumably where more beer was had by all. Then, after accepting another, more straightforward shoey and receiving congratulations from Jorge Masvidal, Tuivasa stood under a ledge, tilted his head up and allowed another fan to pour a beer down into his mouth for good measure.
Tuivasa earned an additional $75,000 in the victory -- one of two performance-of-the-night bonuses awarded on Saturday. That could buy a lot of beer -- and a lot of shoes.
Moutinho steals hearts while absorbing prolific amounts of damage
Sean O'Malley dished out the beating of a lifetime on late-replacement Kris Moutinho in the opening fight of the UFC 264 pay-per-view card, but when the fight was mercifully stopped by referee Herb Dean with 27 seconds left, the audience booed. Loudly.
"I think it could have been stopped three minutes before that," White said. "That fight could have -- and should have -- been stopped at any moment. I have no problem with that stoppage."
But the fans had a big problem with it. They apparently wanted Moutinho, who was making his UFC debut on 11 days' notice, to gain the moral victory of lasting the distance with O'Malley after weathering that storm for more than 14 minutes.
Moutinho's face was badly disfigured, blood spewing out of his mouth to go along with a busted nose and two black eyes. The stoppage, and the criticism that followed, seemed to overshadow an excellent performance from O'Malley.
O'Malley boxed beautifully, seamlessly switching from southpaw to orthodox with a smooth jab that controlled the action.
Moutinho clearly won over the hearts of the fans at T-Mobile Arena with his unbelievable grit (and chin). Despite the onslaught from "Suga" Sean, Moutinho applied nonstop pressure, happy to eat check hooks, lead rights and plenty of jabs.
O'Malley connected on 230 significant strikes, second most all time for a three-round fight (Nate Diaz holds the record with 238, versus Donald Cerrone) and the most strikes ever landed in a UFC bantamweight fight.
The bout was awarded fight-of-the-night honors by White, with O'Malley and Moutinho each earning $75,000 bonuses. The latter was released from a local hospital after examination.
Floyd Mayweather cashes in on McGregor -- again
In 2017, Floyd Mayweather pushed his pro boxing record to a pristine 50-0 with a victory over McGregor, in what was the second-largest pay-per-view attraction in boxing history. It was a lucrative endeavor for both men, but it appears Mayweather isn't quite done cashing in on McGregor -- or McGregor losses for that matter -- just yet.
Shortly after Poirier's victory, Mayweather sent out a photo of a winning bet ticket for the UFC 264 main event and thanked Poirier for helping him cash in. Poirier responded in kind.
I got you champ!— The Diamond (@DustinPoirier) July 11, 2021
UFC antagonist Jake Paul was cageside, along with brother Logan, and he came wearing a custom-made Conor McGregor pendant around his neck that he claimed cost $100,000.
The diamond-crusted jewelry depicts McGregor in the aftermath of his second-round TKO loss to Poirier in January, a harbinger of things to come, perhaps, as Poirier finished McGregor off again.
Afterward, Jake Paul tweeted a photo of the pendant along with a bottle of NyQuil and offered to gift the chain to Poirier.
Paul wasn't the only celebrity in attendance, by a long shot. There were actors -- Mel Gibson, Jared Leto, Miles Teller, Kit Harrington, the trio of Glenn Howerton, Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olson from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," Skylar Astin and Megan Fox (who attended alongside Machine Gun Kelly). Machine Gun Kelly was one of a large contingent from the music industry, along with Justin Bieber, Sia Action Bronson and Travis Barker (with Kourtney Kardashian).
Four Cleveland Browns were in attendance -- Odell Beckham Jr., Baker Mayfield, Austin Hooper and David Njoku -- with the latter trio sitting next to UFC legend Chuck Liddell. There was also former President Donald Trump, Dave Chappelle, Steve Aoki, Adriana Lima, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and dozens more at the first truly marquee fight card in Las Vegas since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the city and the world at large.
The unconventional works wonders for Michel Pereira
It was a great night for Brazilian fighters. Oliveira knows who his first title defense will come against, and he was able to scout Poirier from cageside. Gilbert Burns outpointed Stephen Thompson to retain his lofty position in the welterweight rankings.
And earlier in the evening, Michel Pereira bizarrely decided to perform a backflip on a fallen Niko Price -- and it actually worked.
Not only did Pereira's foot strike Price in the face during the flip, Pereira seamlessly moved in mount afterward. Even more impressive, after Pereira scored the decision victory, he gave his victim a piggyback ride around the Octagon.
Leaving it all in the cage
The brutal gash in the center of her forehead was created after a clash of heads with Maia, and it required 13 stitches, the UFC told ESPN. But it didn't seem to bother Eye much. She stuck her tongue out and smiled as blood poured down her face, creating a crimson mask.
The slice was a few inches long, spanning both eyebrows, but it never stopped Eye from coming forward. Still, she lost, dropping a unanimous decision in the women's flyweight bout during the early prelims.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
In the closing moments of the opening round, Hall fell to the mat and Topuria capitalized, blasting Hall with hammer fists repeatedly until his opponent was pretty much out.
Topuria is now 3-0 in UFC since his October 2020 debut and 11-0 in his MMA career. Hall suffered the first defeat of his UFC career.
Dricus Du Plessis had never attended a UFC event live before McGregor's fight with "Cowboy" Cerrone in January 2020. Sixteen months later, Du Plessis was competing on McGregor's undercard, and he made a big statement in his second UFC bout.
Du Plessis was actually eating some good shots with his back to the cage when he blasted Trevin Giles with a right cross that flattened the American fighter. The South African fighter landed a few big punches in ground-and-pound for good measure and it was over, for a second-round KO.
"I knew there was a place for that straight right," Du Plessis said. "It felt amazing to be here."
He picked up the other performance-of-the-night bonus, earning an additional $75,000.