Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 October 2020

UFC

Conor McGregor-Dustin Poirier rematch is almost done, says UFC's Dana White

The much-anticapted fight is unlikely to take place at Dallas Cowboys' home, says UFC president Dana White

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 18: Conor McGregor reacts before taking on Donald Cerrone in their welterweight bout during UFC246 at T-Mobile Arena on January 18, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Steve Marcus/Getty Images/AFP
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 18: Conor McGregor reacts before taking on Donald Cerrone in their welterweight bout during UFC246 at T-Mobile Arena on January 18, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Steve Marcus/Getty Images/AFP

Dana White says he’s waiting on the contracts being signed between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier for their January clash - although the UFC president cast doubt on the bout taking place at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium.

Both McGregor and Poirier have agreed in principle to a rematch at lightweight on January 23, with the former confirming on Thursday that he was willing to come out of retirement to face his former foe. The controversial Irishman announced in June that he was stepping away from the sport, for the third time in four years. He first took on Poirier at featherweight in 2014, winning in the first round.

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The UFC’s biggest draw, McGregor said on Thursday that he wanted the rematch to take place at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, so that fans could attend. The UFC has not hosted a live event with spectators since March, despite continuing to put on shows throughout the pandemic.

However, speaking to reporters on Friday night in Abu Dhabi before Sunday's latest UFC Fight Night, White gave up an update on McGregor-Poirier, although then appeared to pour cold water on the idea it would be staged in front on a live audience.

“[Conor] said yes and Dustin said yes. Now it’s a matter of getting contracts signed,” White said. “We’ve had a very good relationship with [Cowboys owner Jerry] Jones for a long time, and talked about Dallas Texas Stadium for ever.

“I’m not going into any arena where we’re going to fill a quarter of the arena, or half of the arena or any of that stuff. When crowds are ready to come back, we’ll do crowds again.”

White, currently in the capital for the UFC's second Fight Island series, told The National in an exclusive interview this week that, while he expected Abu Dhabi to be the first to welcome back fans, he would not consider putting on events in the United States unless they were at full capacity. The AT&T Stadium holds 80,000 but, given restrictions implemented because of the pandemic, attendances have been capped at 50 per cent.

Fight Island: The weigh-in

White said he was not sure when fans would be able to return to the UFC. The promotion has discussed permitting a limited number of spectators to attend UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi on October 24, which features the lightweight unification encounter between Khabib Nurmagomedov against Justin Gaethje. It concludes the five-event “Return to Fight Island”.

White said he expects the picture across the Atlantic may become a little clear after the US presidential election on November 3.

“When we all leave Fight Island and go home, we’re literally days away from the election,” he said. “I truly believe that the election’s going to have a huge impact on all the [stuff] we’ve been dealing with for the last however many months. I’m hoping that a lot of this is going to go away after the election.”

The current Fight Island continues on Sunday morning at Flash Forum and is headlined by the hugely anticipated match-up between Brian Ortega and “The Korean Zombie” Jung Chan-sung. It is viewed a featherweight-title eliminator.

Both fighters, who were slated to meet in December only for Ortega to withdraw with an injury, made weight on Friday.

We’ve had an incredible run through Covid,” White said. “Florida, Fight Island 1, Fight Island 2: it’s been an awesome run for us. I know a lot of you guys are as big of fight fans as I am and love being around this, getting Ortega and the Zombie together finally.

"Both of these guys are world-class fighters, in their prime, in the top five and looking for their title shot. Stylistically, this is a fun fight. We’re ending our five-week stint here with two [amazing] fights. I’m excited; I’m fired up for these fights. I can’t wait.”

Updated: October 17, 2020 09:35 AM

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