While there are plenty of college wrestlers who made the transition to mixed martial arts (MMA), some people are just brought into this world with both fists swinging.
Dustin Poirier is one of those people.
The Louisiana native will be the first to admit that growing up, he got his education in "the school of hard knocks," repeatedly getting into trouble at a young age before cagefighting gave him the outlet he desperately needed.
Not only was it a pastime that kept him grounded, he was damn good at it, too. "Diamond" blew through the local circuit and made his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut just 17 months ago, crushing number one Featherweight contender Josh Grispi to make a tremendous first impression.
He's since stretched his UFC record to 4-0 and has now earned himself main event status. The Gladiator Training Center product will soon take on "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung next Tuesday night (May 15, 2012) at UFC on Fuel TV 3 in Fairfax, Virginia.
Poirier spoke with MMAmania.com about his crazy tunnel vision before fights, his life-changing fight bonus and how his opponent Chan Sung Jung has adapted his style to the UFC in part one of this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Erik Koch, a guy you have expressed interest in fighting and a guy you were actually scheduled to fight this past January, ended up getting the title shot against Jose Aldo. What did you think about him kind of leapfrogging everybody?*
Dustin Poirier: I don't have a problem with it. I have a fight coming up and I'm focused with everything I've got on that fight. I'm a fighter. Whether it's Erik Koch or Jose Aldo or Hatsu Hioki, I don't care. Whoever it is that has that belt when I fight 'em, we're gonna have a good fight and I'll be ready. It doesn't bother me at all. The guy had been in the WEC for a while. He's a great fighter and he's fun to watch so let him go out there and see how he does against Aldo.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I want to talk briefly about your last fight. All those transitions you made on the ground, you said it was instinctual. What I want to know is, how much time and work did it take with Tim Credeur and the guys at Gladiator before you stopped having to think about it?
Dustin Poirier: I don't know the exact timeline but that's just from years of doing jiu-jitsu and wrestling and stuff. I was competing in a lot of jiu-jitsu tournaments. It was a long period of time. Years of training ingrained in my brain with certain submisisons, things to do to get out of submissions. It was a lot of repetition. It's been in the works for a long time.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now when your submission of Max Hollaway happened, you were excited that you could potentially be raking in the Submission of the Night bonus, paying off some college for your wife and all kinds of stuff. You did in fact win the $65,000 so was that some life-changing money for you?
Dustin Poirier: Yeah, for sure. I'm a married man and my wife is in college. We own a house. We have "grown man" bills and she's a full-time student right now so man, that was a life-changer. now i have money in the bank, bills are paid. I'm not fighting and surviving from fight to fight like I was. My nutrition and everything I needed for this training camp, I was able to afford, fly guys in and whatever I needed to do. It was life-changing for me on that part and fight-changing because now I can get anything I need for training and my nutrition is 100 percent.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That's terrific. It sounds like that extra money has allowed you to take to another level than you would have been.
Dustin Poirier: Yeah, I was doing some things before, but not at the level that I was able to do for this training camp.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I remember in your post-fight interview, you were hoping to take a few months to work improving your technique and rounding out your skills but within a week you had signed to fight for this event against Chan Sung Jung. What convinced you to not take that break and to get right back into another training camp?
Dustin Poirier: Well, you can't argue with a main event slot against a guy who I know is going to put on an exciting fight. I got that call a week and a half after the fight maybe so it's been a long training camp but I couldn't pass it up. This is a fight that means a lot for my career, means a lot for me and he's a guy that I really want to fight. I think it's gonna be fun, exciting and a great match-up for the fans and it's a fight that I'm gonna win.
After this fight, Jose Aldo's fighting Erik Koch and there's no question about that so I plan on getting in the gi, doing some jiu-jitsu tournaments and just having some fun. 2011 was pretty smooth. I fought in January against Josh Grispi and then I didn't fight again until June or around there so I had a lot time between fights so I was able to diet throughout the week and eat what I wanted on weekends, drink a beer after practice and have fun like that. That's when I feel you're learning the most, when you're having fun in the gym.
For me, I'm the kind of guy that when I sign a fight contract or plan on doing a fight, I get tunnel vision. I'm so focused, I don't cheat on my diet and all I do is train for that fight and sleep. It cuts me off from the world and I feel like, while I'm learning in training camp, I'm primarily sharpening my skills and getting ready for an opponent and getting ready for a fighting style that I'm going to be going against. I want to continue to grow overall as a martial artist and I think that comes from having fun in training.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had a unique situation in this training camp where you helped promote your documentary Fightville while you were preparing for this fight. Was that different or distracting at all?
Dustin Poirier: Nah man, I didn't have to promote anything. All I had to do was answer a couple phone calls. I didn't leave my town once. It was no different than training for any other fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This fight is kind of similar to your Pablo Garza bout in that you knew your opponent much longer ahead of time. All your other three fights against Grispi, Jason Young and Hollaway, it was either you stepping in on short notice or a late opponent change. What makes it different when you've got so much extra time to prepare for one specific guy?**
Dustin Poirier: I feel like for my Pablo Garza fight, that was the best I've ever fought. I was ready and I knew how he was gonna move. I knew what was gonna happen almost. The Pablo Garza fight was my best performance and it was the only fight that I had a full training camp to prepare for so I think this is gonna be a repeat. I think I'm gonna be mentally and physically ready. I'm gonna put on a great performance.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You mentioned that tunnel vision, that obsession that you have with your opponent once you know who it is. Can you tell me about what that's like where you've got your opponent on your mind 24/7. Is it tough to take a break from it?
Dustin Poirier: It doesn't go away until the fight's over with. I'm a madman. I'm a crazy person. All I think about is fighting. All I do is thinking about winning this fight, what happens if I win this fight, the years of work and dedication that I've put in to get to this point, taking a couple of steps back after this fight with a loss or taking a leap forward with a win. Going 5-0 in the UFC means everything to me.
This fight, getting my hand raised means everything to me and there's nothing else I want to be doing on May 15th except winning, fighting and winning. I'm intense. It's all or nothign with everything I do. When I get ready and I find out who I'm fighting and I start getting emotions, I lock myself away from the world. I'm at the gym all day. That's just the kind of person I am. These last three months have been a 12 week training camp. It's been 85 days.These last three months I've been either at the gym or at my house.
My wife and I pass each other up. She's going to school, I'm here in the morning, I'm here at night. It's like I'm living in my own world. I don't hang out with my mom or my brother and I don't hang out with family or friends that often in person even though we're in the same town. I'm committed 100 percent to any fight that I'm in.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'm assuming with all that intense focus, you do a lot of study of Chan Sung Jung as well. He said he was going to overhaul his style after the loss to George Roop. Have you noticed any differences in how he fights on film in his last two fights since the Roop loss?
Dustin Poirier: I've for sure noticed that he's maybe not as overly aggressive. Did he say that? I didn't know that he changed his style but now that you say that, I can tell. He's not as aggressive. His hands are a little bit higher. He's a little more cautious. In the Roop fight and especially in the first Garcia fight he was going in there with reckless abandon for his body. He was just going forward and throwing punches and he's got the skills and a kickboxing background so he knows what he's doing and he's starting to use it.
Stay tuned for part two of my interview with Dustin Poirier where we talk about his background, the pressure to talk title shots and what previous opponent forced him to change his style and fighting strategy.
*Question via SanabriaMan
**Question via Ulf Murphy