UFC 264: Conor McGregor vows to return 'better than ever' following gruesome leg break

Former two-division world champion has successful surgery on broken tibia and fibula sustained during defeat to Dustin Poirier in Las Vegas

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Conor McGregor says he will come back “better than ever” after undergoing successful surgery on his broken leg sustained in what he considers Dustin Poirier’s “illegitimate” victory in their trilogy clash in Las Vegas.

The former two-division world champion’s headline bout at UFC 264 was cut short on Sunday at T-Mobile Arena when he broke his left tibia and fibula when planting his foot behind him only seconds from the end of the first round.

McGregor, 33 on Wednesday, departed the octagon on a stretcher and with his leg in a brace, and was then transported to hospital in Los Angeles. He underwent a three-hour surgery, where a rod was inserted in the tibia with screws and plates attached to the fibula to stabilise the leg.

Poirier, 32, was declared the winner by TKO because of a doctor’s stoppage, meaning the American concluded their rivalry 2-1 up. He defeated McGregor by second-round TKO in Abu Dhabi in January.

Early on Monday, McGregor tweeted: “Just out of the surgery room guys! Surgery went excellent! Feeling tremendous! [Six] weeks on crutch and we build back! Let’s go! God bless.”

The Irishman, now with one victory and three defeats from his past four UFC bouts, followed with a video on his social media, saying the surgery was “perfect” and thanking his fans for their support, both in their best wishes sent online and at T-Mobile Arena.

“The place was absolutely electric,” McGregor said. “It was a hell of a first round. It would have been nice to get to that second round, and then you know, to see what's what. But it is what it is, that's the nature of the business.

“Dustin, you can celebrate that illegitimate win all you want but you done nothing in there. That second round would have shown all. Onwards and upwards we go team. We dust ourselves off, we build ourselves back and we come back better than ever.”

UFC president Dana White has already said he would be interested in making a fourth fight between the pair, although Poirier will next take on lightweight champion Charles Oliveira, possibly in December.

As for McGregor, his recovery will surely be key in determining what level of opponent he will return against should he step back into the octagon. A former featherweight and lightweight champion, he has suffered successive defeats for the first time in his professional mixed martial arts career.

McGregor’s manager, Audie Attar, released a statement early on Monday, saying: “Conor is in recovery after three hours of surgery. The surgery was successful repairing fractures of his tibia and fibula. His physicians included Dr Neal ElAttrache from Kerlan-Jobb, Conor’s long-time orthopaedist and trauma surgeon Dr Milton Little from Cedars-Sinai.

“Both doctors are confident that with time he will make a full recovery. We anticipate his return to the octagon.”

Meanwhile, McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh said an ankle injury sustained in training camp could have contributed to the leg break.

Poirier had claimed in the immediate aftermath of UFC 264 that he injured McGregor when he checked a leg kick early in the first round, but Kavanagh believes it occurred when his star pupil landed a kick on the American’s elbow during the final minute.

Kavanagh told ESPN’s Laura Sanko during an Instagram Q&A: “A little bit of that ankle injury had been aggravated during camp. We got a scan on it. Did that have a small part to play in weakening it? I don’t know. We were [with a doctor in California] a couple weeks ago to get a scan on the ankle… there might’ve been something in there.

“It would seem unusual that a young, healthy, fit man could wrap his foot around an elbow and [break it] without there being something [wrong] there before. You can play those guessing games all day long.”

Kavanagh added that the series with Poirier does not feel “properly finished”, saying of the defeat: “It’s a bitter pill to swallow. This sport is the highest highs and the lowest lows. We’ve got to take some time to assess what the next move is. Obviously rehab and recovery is where it’s at.”

Updated: July 12, 2021, 7:45 AM