Dustin Poirier will get the opportunity he was waiting for when he takes on current UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway at UFC 236 this April for the interim lightweight title.
Having just called for his UFC release days ago, the booking is quite the turnaround for Poirier. When asked how everything ultimately came together, the 30-year-old veteran didn’t really have too many answers. All he knows is that he’ll get his first shot at UFC gold.
“I’m not sure (how this happened),” Poirier told MMAjunkie. “I don’t know. I don’t make the decisions. I don’t even know what happened. Honestly, these last few months I’ve been kept in the dark, really. I’ve been here seven weeks now in South Florida at my spot training. Not in a training camp preparing for anything, but just learning and staying on the mats. I just felt like something big was coming, and I decided to stay here. Good thing I did because I got the call for this one.”
Despite finishing Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje, and Anthony Pettis in his last three Octagon appearances, Poirier was not UFC’s first choice to meet Holloway in an interim lightweight title fight. That honor went to former interim titleholder Tony Ferguson, who currently commands an 11-fight win streak at 155 pounds.
Luckily for Poirier, Ferguson ended up declining the UFC’s offer. That allowed “Diamond” to take the bull by its horns and sign the dotted line.
“Originally they wanted Max and Tony, and then they called me,” Poirier said. “They didn’t really have a whole lot of plans, then at the last minute they tried to put together Max vs. Tony. Then they called and said, ‘If for some reason Max falls out or doesn’t take it, you’re going to fight Tony for the interim. If for some reason Tony doesn’t make it, then you’re going to fight Max for the interim.’ Tony apparently didn’t think it was the right fight at the right time, or he had something going on. I don’t know his exact story.
“I’m trying to figure out why he couldn’t make the date, but honestly I don’t care. I hope everything is good for him and his family and hope he’s healthy, but this is my opportunity.”
Should Poirier turn this massive opportunity into a victory over Holloway at UFC 236, he’ll position himself to unify the interim belt with current UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov sometime later this year. Remember, Khabib is currently sidelined until November, which is why all of this interim title stuff is happening in the first place.
Poirier understands that interim title rights don’t always lead directly to the champion, but it’s a risk he’s willing to take. All he needs to do is control the things he can control.
“This means everything to me,” Poirier said. “When I get that belt wrapped around my waist, it solidifies – well in this day in age (you never know) – it should solidify that I’m going to unify the belt with Khabib in the next fight. It says I’m the best in the world, but I still have a lot more work to do after that. It’s not done yet. It helps me move forward in my career where I want to go.
“I know a lot of people are going to (expletive) on it because that’s the way people are. People suck. They’re going to say, ‘You’re not the champion.’ But let me tell you what: After 40 fights, after 12 years of struggling and climbing back from adversity, after all the sacrifices I’ve made with my family, that my wife has made because of the ups, the downs. When they wrap that around my waist, I promise you not a person’s opinion in the world is going to matter. I’m going to be the world the champion.”
Poirier, who defeated Holloway via submission in their first meeting at featherweight back in 2012, has looked like a different animal since moving back up to lightweight four years ago. He’ll now have the chance to prove he’s one of the best fighters in the world when he takes on “Blessed” and his 13-fight win streak at UFC 236 this April.