The emotion Dustin Poirier felt in the moments after he lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 was palpable. Despite the UFC lightweight championship being within reach, and having moments during the fight in which he seemed to have one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world in peril, Poirier couldn't get over the last hump.
In the immediate aftermath, in the disappointment he felt, Poirier even hinted that he might not want to fight again.
"My whole career and then, obviously, a 10-week training camp was preparing me for that night, and I felt like I did everything I could to be ready for that fight," Poirier said Monday on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show. "I got beat. I was in my feelings man, and it hurt. Sitting in my hotel room I said that, but that was just emotional."
Now, 10 days removed from the fight, Poirier feels a little bit differently.
"Of course I'm going to fight again -- these guys aren't going to punch themselves in the face," he said.
So what's next? Conor McGregor, of course, at least if Poirier has his way.
"If we're respecting the rankings here, he's No. 3 and everyone else is pretty booked up," Poirier said. "It makes sense. We both lost to the same guy in a world title fight."
Poirier lost to McGregor at UFC 178 in September 2014, but he's 9-2 with one no-contest since then.
"Financially, it makes a lot of sense," Poirier continued. "[But] if the guy's not going to fight, they've gotta take him out of the rankings, because he's just going to keep log-jamming an already top-heavy division."
When Poirier floated the idea of a McGregor rematch on Sept. 10, McGregor was quick to respond and point out that he knocked Poirier out in less than two minutes. Poirier feels like he's a much different fighter in this stage, and all the circumstances add up to make this potential fight a no-brainer.
"If it's that easy, do it again," Poirier said.
Poirier struggled with the disappointment of losing to Nurmagomedov, but he was happy with how the champion embraced his charity. Nurmagomedov and Poirier exchanged t-shirts inside the Octagon after the fight. Nurmagomedov said he intended to use his massive online presence to auction off the shirt and donate all proceeds to Poirier's charity, The Good Fight Foundation.
As of this week, Nurmagomedov has already made good on his promise. According to Poirier, the Dagestani champion recently donated $100,000 to the foundation. Poirier called it the biggest donation he has ever received.
"He raised a lot of money," Poirier said. "It's the biggest donation we've ever had with the Foundation and we're going to do great things with it. He's going to help a lot of people with his contribution. It's incredible to see the fighters start to donate things and the growth the Foundation has had in the last year-and-a-half."
Poirier has already announced a partnership between his foundation and fellow MMA veteran Justin Wren's Fight For the Forgotten, which builds and repairs water wells in Africa. UFC president Dana White has also stated he intends to match Nurmagomedov's contribution.
After an embarrassing loss Saturday night, when his backflips and break-dancing overshadowed his fighting during UFC Fight Night in Vancouver, Michel Pereira received some advice from a most unlikely source.
Tristan Connelly was supposed to be another steppingstone for Pereira, who is an athletic and entertaining prospect. Connelly wasn't even on the UFC roster until last week, when he received a call to be a last-minute fill-in to face Pereira. But instead of being another victim, Connelly scored a unanimous decision over his fatigued opponent, and then reached out to offer some wisdom.
"I said, 'Man, I knew you were going to do that. I knew you were going to come out like that. I'm not saying don't go crazy, I love your crazy, it's amazing, I'm going to be a fan forever, but start a little more fundamentally,'" Connelly said Monday on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show. "'Take a little more time and then throw your crazy stuff in there and go back to being fundamental.
"One, you're going to save way more energy and you're going to recover, and two, I'm not going to be able to predict as much, or your opponent isn't going to be able to predict as much. It's going to have a way, way higher chance of working.' I really hope he takes that and runs with it, because I'm a fan. I'm out of the (welterweight) division now (Connelly is a lightweight who moved up to take the fight), so I want to see him go on a tear and mess everyone up."
If Connelly was the feel-good story of the night, that might be enhanced by the fact he tried to help Pereira after the bout. And Connelly is no stranger to coaching. In fact he was teaching his class in Vancouver when he received the call that he would be on the card.
"I get the phone call and ran around the gym screaming, celebrating, couldn't have been happier," Connelly said. "And basically didn't sleep for the rest of the week. I slept last night, which was the first night I slept."
Connelly's debut couldn't have gone much better. He won the full $100,000 Fight of the Night bonus, which included Pereira's cut because he missed weight. He also took 20 percent of Pereira's purse due to the missed weight. That's on top of the money Connelly won for fighting and winning.
"I honestly feel like I deserve to be here," Connelly said. "I honestly feel like I've been ready for a long time. I'm not surprised I did as well as I did.
"I knew that's exactly how that fight was going to go. There was not a doubt in my mind. I knew how Michel was going to come out. I knew he had all this hype behind him. But I knew he wasn't going to put me away in the first three minutes, and then after that it's what next, what are you going to do when it's my fight? If he had just taken a little more time, it would have been a different fight. But I knew watching his old fights, he had such success with jumping and knocking guys out spectacularly that I knew he had even more reason with me, five days' notice, lightweight, 30 pounds bigger than me, maybe more, misses weight. I wasn't worried for a second."
Askren: Usman and Covington are 'idiots'
Ben Askren gives his take on the welterweights, with Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington not booked and Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz being an exciting fight.
Ben Askren is preparing to compete against one of the greatest grapplers in MMA history. Grappling is consuming his mind to the point where he might just have set up a post-MMA career move.
Askren faces multiple-time world grappling champion Demian Maia in the main event of UFC Fight Night on Oct. 26 in Kallang, Singapore. But he has no beef with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu whiz, so "Funky" Ben had to stir things up with someone. During his appearance on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show, he turned his attention to irksome Bellator welterweight Dillon Danis, a jiu-jitsu ace himself who in the past has challenged Askren to a grappling match.
"At this point, it's my mixed martial arts career [that's my focus]," Askren said. "But when I'm done with that, if I chose to partake in a grappling contest, I think it would probably be against Dillon Danis."
Danis apparently was watching the show, because while Askren was still on, he tweeted out, "Biggest grappling match in the history of the sport. Dillon Danis vs. @benaskren. Let's f---ing do it!"
Askren's response: "He has a gigantic amount to gain from this, because although he wants to act like he's the biggest deal in Bellator, he's probably getting paid five and five [$5,000 to show, $5,000 to win] or something to that effect. So if I chose to grapple against Dillon Danis, I would make him significantly more money than he does in any of his Bellator fights."
Danis is 2-0 in his nascent MMA career.
For now, though, Askren is focused on the 41-year-old Maia (27-9), who has twice competed for UFC championships (losses to middleweight champ Anderson Silva in 2010 and welterweight champ Tyron Woodley in 2017) but has struggled against high-level wrestlers. In 2017-18, Maia lost three in a row to wrestlers Woodley, Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman.
Askren (19-1, 1 NC) is a two-time NCAA Division I national champion wrestler (2006-2007), 2008 Olympian and 2009 world champion. The 35-year-old is a former champion in the Bellator and ONE promotions. He is coming off his first career loss, a UFC-record five-second knockout by Jorge Masvidal in July.
Jeremy Stephens has spent more than a month training at altitude ahead of Saturday's UFC Fight Night main event against Yair Rodriguez in Mexico City, but the work he put into training in Big Bear Lake, California, before he left might play a major factor, as well.
That's because Tony Ferguson opened up his doors to Stephens as a training partner as part of his notoriously grueling routine. Stephens connected with Ferguson through his new management team, and then dove in head-first once the opportunity presented itself.
"I saw Tony Ferguson, [and] I knew he trained at high altitude," Stephens told Helwani. "I was talking to him, talking about going to Big Bear. I went up there, trained with him a little bit, got some experience and got some great knowledge from him."
Stephens was in exclusive company with Ferguson, who has a reputation for having a tight-knit inner circle.
"Training with a guy like Tony Ferguson, who's one of the top [fighters] in the world, who is more than deserving of a title shot, has so much knowledge and experience of beating guys asses, it was incredible," Stephens said. "We trained probably 6½ hours straight, and then we'd take a little break. We'd watch 'Rocky 4,' and then we went on midnight runs, [or] 1 a.m.
"It was an incredible experience," Stephens continued. "I actually can't wait to go back and help him train for his upcoming fight, go on them runs, and do that 6½, seven hours, Floyd Mayweather-type training. It's champ s---. The guy's incredible, [but] he's smart. It's not just barbaric work. The guy trains with extreme intelligence."
Cat Zingano has made UFC history. She was the first woman to win a Fight of the Night bonus, the first woman to score a TKO victory and the first mother to compete inside the Octagon.
But last month, her UFC run ended when the promotion released Zingano after she could not take a fight because of "a project that was very, very important to me."
The project? Zingano is the Season 2 host of "Why We Fight," a documentary series on ESPN+ that explores personal stories about what drives athletes to pursue combat sports.
"It felt very dear to me, especially having gone through a lot and having fighting be so cathartic for me," said Zingano, who in the midst of her MMA career had to persevere following the suicide of her husband and jiu-jitsu coach, Mauricio Zingano. "It meant a lot to complete that project in a way that I could be proud of, in a way that serves people, in a way that I feel dignified by."
Zingano, 37, lost four of her past five UFC outings, most recently a TKO loss to Megan Anderson last December. The featherweight fight lasted barely over a minute because Zingano suffered an eye injury when an Anderson head kick grazed her eyeball. Zingano appealed the loss to the California State Athletic Commission, claiming the strike was an illegal eye gouge, but the CSAC upheld Anderson's win.
Zingano's difficult run followed an unbeaten start to her career. She pushed her record to 9-0 with a 2014 TKO of Amanda Nunes, the last defeat on the record of the two-division champion. That win earned Zingano a title shot, but she lost to Ronda Rousey in 14 seconds.
Now Zingano and Rousey are reunited, as "Rowdy Ronda" is executive producer of "Why We Fight."