The focus on McGregor makes it easy to forget Poirier, but it takes two to fight, and his seven-figure guarantee tells you he’s a serious competitor and not just a dummy for McGregor to pummel.
Poirier, 32, has won six of his last eight fights — a stretch that includes one no-contest and wins over top-echelon fighters like Justin Gaethje and the former featherweight champion Max Holloway. Poirier lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov, but a lot of fighters do that — including McGregor.
In 2014, Poirier lost to McGregor, then a rising U.F.C. star, by first-round knockout. And in 2011, Poirier was featured in “Fightville,” a documentary examining the mixed martial arts community in Lafayette, La.
One of his best U.F.C. performances came in July 2018, when he dispatched Eddie Alvarez in the second round.
McGregor last fought 53 weeks ago, blowing out Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds and setting up a potential big-money rematch against the lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. But then the coronavirus pandemic scrambled those plans. Nurmagomedov defeated Justin Gaethje in October and then retired immediately afterward. McGregor campaigned to return to the octagon but couldn’t line up a bout until this main event against Poirier came together.
But the upside, for the U.F.C., of McGregor’s yearlong absence is that it has been able to sell the fight as a comeback. And the U.F.C. is paying McGregor and Poirier as if their main event is a special occasion.
Last year, McGregor earned a $3 million guarantee for routing Cerrone, who was guaranteed $200,000. This weekend, McGregor (22-4) will earn a minimum $5 million, while Poirier (26-6, 1 no-contest) is guaranteed $1 million. Those figures don’t include performance bonuses or the share of pay-per-view revenue headliners typically receive.
But the numbers tell you how seriously the U.F.C. is taking the event — its first pay-per-view card in 2021 — and how much it values the audience McGregor attracts for as long as it can be sustained.
The lightweight contender Michael Chandler will make his U.F.C. debut when he faces New Zealand’s Dan Hooker in Saturday’s co-main event, but he’s not a rookie. Chandler has a 21-5 record and a reputation as a skilled wrestler and a versatile mixed martial arts fighter.
Last year, he signed with the U.F.C. after a decade with the rival promoter Bellator. In October, he served as an understudy for the main event between Nurmagomedov and Gaethje.
He trained as if he were going to fight and even weighed in at the 155-pound lightweight limit, so he could fill in immediately if some last-minute catastrophe sidelined either headliner.