UFC 264: Conor McGregor's elite prizefighter status will suffer cataclysmic damage if he losses Dustin Poirier trilogy

CONOR MCGREGOR may have recently become the richest sports star on the planet, but his days as the UFC's cash cow could come to a spectacular end this weekend.

The former plumber turned multi-millionaire will return to the octagon early tomorrow morning at UFC 264 in Las Vegas for a high-stakes trilogy fight with rival Dustin Poirier.

MMA superstar McGregor, 32, suffered a brutal second-round KO loss to the American in their January rematch in Abu Dhabi.

And a second successive defeat to the former interim lightweight champion will spell the end of the Irishman's time as an elite prizefighter.

No longer will he able to captivate audiences around the globe with his over-the-top antics and the once-accurate predictions that earned him the 'Mystic Mac' moniker.

And he can kiss goodbye to his pipe dream of competing for a world title inside the boxing ring if 'The Diamond' gets the better of him again.

The devastating effects of a fourth loss in his last seven outings won't just be confined to McGregor's combat sports career.

His numerous business endeavours – which took him to the top of the Forbes list in May – will take a real hit if he's flattened by the resurgent Poirier again.

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Make no mistake about it, the former two-division champion will remain a key player in the stacked lightweight division if he loses to the pride of Louisiana.

But in the eyes of the casual fans who line his pockets with pay-per-view buys, he'll be nothing more than a has-been.

That's sadly the harsh reality of the fight game, a cruel mistress that can cast you aside just as quickly as it can make you a star.

McGregor knows that all too well having had his status as one of the UFC's elite questioned after his submission defeat to Nate Diaz in March 2016.

The promotion's poster boy rose to the occasion in their rematch five months later, but the stakes are significantly higher this time around.

McGregor has abandoned the comfort of family and his life of luxury in a bid to become the ‘wild dog’ that rose to global superstardom in 2015.

A small and unassuming gym in Costa Mesta, California played host to 'The Notorious' and his team for what may very well have been the most important training camp of his life.

The UFC's first simultaneous two-weight world champion appears to be in the right frame of mind going into the Sin City series decider.

But serious questions remain over the intensity of his preparations, in particular his devotion to the 'mixed' aspect of MMA, ahead of his date with destiny.

One would assume the manner in which he lost to Poirier would force him to reassess his approach to training and recruit sparring partners willing to push him to the brink.

Only time will tell if the pride of Dublin has learned from his mistakes and made the necessary adjustments to remain a global superstar.

If he hasn't, his bid to climb back to the top of the UFC mountain and preserve his status as one of the biggest draws in combat sports will fall flat on its face

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