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UFC 257: Conor McGregor lost because he’s not the best in the world (and doesn’t deserve the hype)

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First it was “inactivity.” Then it was “leg kicks.” Perhaps that’s easier than admitting Dustin Poirier is now the better fighter.

Former two-division champion Conor McGregor is undoubtedly the biggest star in mixed martial arts (MMA) and you can make the argument that he’s the top name in all of combat sports, now that Floyd “Money” Mayweather is retired from boxing.

It’s a label he no longer deserves.

I know the “Notorious” fanboys are going to have trouble swallowing this very simple fact, but when you call yourself the “king” of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), get paid more than anyone else in the sport, and get to pick and choose your opponents, you are going to be held to a different standard.

And rightly so.

McGregor was the odds-on betting favorite to win his UFC 257 pay-per-view (PPV) rematch against Dustin Poirier last night (Jan. 23) on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, closing at -340 to +260 for “The Diamond.” In fact, not a single sportsbook had more than 10 percent of its money on Poirier, according to Darren Rovell.

The house won big last night.

That’s because Poirier stopped McGregor by way of technical knockout in the second stanza (see the highlights here), avenging his loss to the trash-talking Irishman and settling a rankings despite they had last May.

“How is the pea ahead of me in rankings? I sparked him in 90 seconds,” McGregor said. “Went further against most recent foe, plus took a round. After two-year layoff partying and or in jail/court. What a weird little game you guys play. I’ll bide my time for now but watch this space. All bums.”

“Because I’ve been fighting real contenders and you’ve been hand-picking opponents,” Poirier fired back.

There was a time when McGregor had earned the title of “best in the world,” along with two titles to put around his waist. But just like his run at featherweight, “Notorious” never made a single lightweight title defense and used his combat sports notoriety to craft his own whiskey, talk his way into a Floyd Mayweather bout, and become the new king of burgers.

He deserved it because he earned it.

McGregor wiped the floor with Eddie Alvarez in late 2016 but would only fight twice over the next four years. During that span, Poirier competed eight times, smashing Justin Gaethje before capturing the interim strap with a win over Max Holloway. His only blemish during that run was a loss to undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who also submitted the 32 year-old Irishman.

It was thought perhaps the Nate Diaz loss at UFC 196 — contested at welterweight — was something of a fluke for McGregor but if we’re being honest, he’s been rather mediocre since abandoning the 145-pound weight class. His record is 3-3 and he’s been finished in all three losses. And that’s not counting his defeat to Mayweather in summer 2017.

Is that the kind of resume that warrants this much hype?

McGregor — who blamed “inactivity” for his Poirier performance — does not hold a victory over anyone currently ranked in the Top 15. He certainly earned his way to the top ... but what did he do to keep it? I can’t get that excited about a welterweight victory over Donald Cerrone, who went into the “Notorious” fight having already been finished seven times in his career.

Which included back-to-back knockout losses to Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje.

There was a time when McGregor was the best in the world but that time has long since passed. He still has the “it” factor and remains an exciting fighter to watch. It would just be nice if the promotion could stop booking him for title fights before he beats an actual contender because the “War Gods” make you pay for that kind of disrespect.

On a more positive note, maybe now we can finally get that “special” Nate Diaz trilogy.