Earlier this year, Dustin Poirier was presented with a choice.
One path led him to a trilogy with longtime rival Conor McGregor. Win or lose, a fight against “Notorious” would bring him yet another career-high payday, having already fought (and beaten) the former two-division champion in January.
The other path would take him to a lightweight title fight against Charles Oliveira. The strap had been vacated by Khabib Nurmagomedov in the wake of “The Eagle’s” retirement in late 2020 and “The Diamond” had seniority over fellow contender Michael Chandler.
Winning the 155-pound title would not only mark the realization of a lifelong dream, it would cement Poirier’s legacy as one of the greatest fighters of his generation. Losing, however, would yield little more than his “show” purse and a few consolatory butt slaps.
“Once a champion, always a champion,” Poirier, 32, told reporters at the UFC 269 media day (via MMA Fighting). “It’s very important for me and my wife. It just cements everything that we’ve done. If I can become the world champion Saturday night, I’ve done everything I set out to do. I’ve set my family up. We’re in a good position financially. I have other businesses. I have to check that box. That’s forever. I was saying 25 minutes to make life fair. This is 25 minutes for eternity. That’s what this is. You don’t take that away.”
Scoring a fight against Conor McGregor is almost as difficult as landing a division title shot. The finicky Irishman rarely competes and when he does, “Notorious” politics — along with projected UFC earnings — take precedence over division integrity.
Incredibly, Poirier secured both.
That’s because the former featherweight gambled on himself. Regardless of what happened in the UFC 262 title fight between Oliveira and Chandler (Oliveira won), “The Diamond” knew that beating McGregor a third time would solidify his crack at the crown.
But even if Poirier took the place of Chandler last May, there was no guarantee a victory would procure a third fight against McGregor. “Notorious” could have found another opponent, gotten arrested again, or simply retired for the seventh time on Twitter.
Hey, those Lamborghini super yachts won’t steer themselves.
Unfortunately for Poirier, moving from McGregor to Oliveira is hardly a downgrade. On the contrary, the UFC 269 pay-per-view (PPV) main event this Sat. night (Dec. 11) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas may feature “The Diamond’s” toughest opponent to date.
The Brazilian (31-8, 1 NC) holds the UFC record for most finishes, as well as the most submissions.
“He showed grit in his last fight against Chandler,” Poirier continued. “He got hurt, almost got finished, came back and knocked the guy out. He’s as dangerous as any of the other top guys I’ve fought, just in different areas. His submission game, numbers don’t lie. He is the most dangerous ever to hit the canvas in the UFC. We didn’t put that aside in training camp. We really focused on the fence and fight IQ on the ground, where I’m at in the rounds and risks I need to take. He’s very dangerous.”
The self-made Poirier (28-6, 1 NC) has 25 minutes to cap off an incredible year while simultaneously winning the bet he placed on himself. With a victory, “The Diamond” would exit “Sin City” with the holy trinity of UFC: The money, the title, and the legacy.
We’ll find out on Saturday night.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 269 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the remaining undercard balance on ESPN2/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.