Just as their final pay-per-view event of an unprecedented 2020 was coming to a close, the UFC dropped the promotional video for its next - with Abu Dhabi likely to play host.
Next month's UFC 257 marks Conor McGregor's much-anticipated return to the octagon, in his rematch with Dustin Poirier scheduled for January 23. Although the location is yet to be confirmed, the UFC are targeting a third Fight Island stint in the UAE capital in the space of six months, with the promotion's president Dana White aiming for three events across a week beginning on January 16.
In the promo released during UFC 256 on Sunday, entitled “Get ready for war”, the action leaned heavily on McGregor’s first meeting with Poirier, at UFC 178 in 2014. Taking place at featherweight – they are to meet this time at lightweight – the Irishman put the exclamation mark on an ill-tempered build-up by dispatching Poirier in Las Vegas by first-round TKO.
Going on to become the first male athlete to hold two UFC belts simultaneously, McGregor has not fought since last January, when he defeated Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds. He then announced his retirement from the sport in the summer.
Audie Attar, McGregor's manager, told The National last week that his client was working towards his comeback taking place in Abu Dhabi, saying that the 32-year-old was in the "best shape I've ever seen".
Speaking at Sunday's UFC 256 post-fight press conference, White said there was no better way to kick off 2021 than with McGregor’s return.
The UFC 257 headline bout is considered by many a title eliminator for the lightweight title, which is still held by Khabib Nurmagomedov despite the undefeated champion himself retiring in October.
In Sunday's co-main event in Las Vegas, Charles Oliveira dominated Tony Ferguson to win by unanimous decision and leap into contention for a championship bout.
However, White said nothing would be decided in the division until he meets with Nurmagomedov next month – with that get-together also slated for Abu Dhabi.
“It actually all lines up perfectly,” White said. “Conor’s going to fight that same week with Poirier. We’re talking about [lightweight contender Michael] Chandler fighting [at UFC 257], this fight happened tonight, and then I meet with Khabib next month and we figure out what’s going on.”
Poirier, a former interim champion, has fought in Abu Dhabi before, at UFC 242 in September last year. He was beaten by Nurmagomedov by third-round submission, but rebounded in June, with victory against Dan Hooker.