Dustin Poirier’s quest to be ‘undisputed’ reached last chance

Dustin Poirier is a former UFC champion.

It may just be an interim championship belt hanging in his house, but it’s no hollow achievement for one of the greatest lightweight boxers in MMA history.

“I have a UFC title in my living room with my name on it that says ‘World Champion,'” Poirier told reporters on Wednesday at media day for UFC 302 in Jersey City, N.J. “The reason I’m holding that belt up is because Max [Holloway]”He was on a 12-fight winning streak when I beat him for the belt. He was the reigning featherweight champion at the time. So it’s not like I’m going to beat somebody in a draw to get the interim title just because the champion isn’t available.”

Dustin Poirier spoke to reporters at UFC 302 media day on Wednesday in Jersey City, New Jersey. NY Post: Scott Fontana

Clearly, Poirier appreciates his accomplishment.


“High on the list, but not absolute,” Poirier added. “This is the last spot. What else can you do in this sport?”

Poirier’s latest chance to fill “the last spot” on a stellar resume that includes two notable wins over Conor McGregor – and he believes it will be his last – comes Saturday when he takes on unbeaten champion Islam Makhachev in the main event at Prudential Center.

That “undisputed” honor means a lot to Poirier (30-8, 23 finishes), who lost his first attempt at a title shot in a unification bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2019, then challenged then-champion Charles Oliveira in 2021 and lost.

It all dates back to when the 35-year-old was just 17 in Lafayette, Louisiana, and told the woman who would become his wife that she would be “the best in the world.”

“It’s not about the money. It’s not about the Hall of Fame or records. It’s about accomplishing something,” Poirier said of his motivation. “It’s not about business. It’s personal. If I can accomplish it, I’ll be able to look back and say, ‘I’m satisfied. I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished. I set goals as a kid, not knowing anything about what I was going to face, but I got up and kept going and I did it.'”

UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev grapples with a teammate during a training session leading up to UFC 302. NY Post: Scott Fontana

“[Another reporter] “You ask me about a guy who’s undefeated his whole career and defending the belt, and that’s incredible and it’s very difficult, but a guy who’s been dumped, who’s been outplayed, who’s been beaten down, who’s been knocked down and bounced back and really delivered. That’s what I’m after. That’s what I want.”

That goal, half a lifetime in the making, is once again within reach, this time against an opponent with ties to the first man who crushed Poirier’s undisputed dreams.

Dustin Poirier is fresh off a knockout defeat of Benoit St. Denis in March. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Like Nurmagomedov, Makhachev is a former protégé of the late Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, Khabib’s father.

Khabib’s retirement on the heels of the death of his father in 2020 paved the way for his longtime teammate and friend to rise up and win a championship of his own, establishing himself as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world in the process.

Khabib coaches Makhachev in their native Dagestan, and the UFC Hall of Famer will end a nearly two-year hiatus from his job as a cornerback when his protégé faces former opponent Poirier.

While Nurmagomedov and Makhachev’s fighting styles are not mirror images, they are very similar and Poirier said their fighting styles are unique.

“American Top Team has great grapplers, great wrestlers. [UFC lightweight contender] “Mateusz Gamlot beat me the last six weeks,” Poirier said, contrasting his style with that of his coach and Makhachev, “but their styles are different – the way they ride, the way they put their weight on. It’s just a different style. But after fighting Khabib, I think I understand it a lot more. I never felt like that.” [top] Obviously the pressure and takedowns with Islam are a little bit different, but I think his top pressure and grappling scenarios are similar.”

In theory, the experience of facing a champion fighter of that style wouldn’t hurt.

But Poirier couldn’t argue that his 12 minutes and 6 seconds inside the cage with Nurmagomedov was superior to his bout with Makhachev (25-1, 16 finishes).

Dustin Poirier (left) lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov in September 2019. AP

“That can be an advantage, but it’s about understanding,” Poirier said. “I’ve been fighting, wrestling, combat sports my whole life and you don’t realize that. To get in there and feel it, somebody can explain it, somebody can show you, but until you’re in the fight and you feel that pressure, you feel the wisdom of your opponent’s weight distribution and where you are in relation to your opponent, it’s something you have to experience.”

Poirier came into this bout with a win over Benoit St. Denis at UFC 299 in March, turned pro in May 2009 and reached the UFC by January 2011.

He has been a regular in the elite 155-pound class for the past seven years or so.

Poirier explained Wednesday that his desire to fight is not sated, but sometimes comes up while watching football or his grade-school-aged daughter’s soccer games, but he openly said he’s uncertain whether he’ll be able to bounce back if there’s another setback and seek a fourth chance at an elusive, undefeated championship.

Win or lose, Poirier said Saturday could be his last time in the Octagon.

Whether or not that’s true, Poirier himself acknowledges he doesn’t know whether the world will find out immediately after the fight or at a later date, but says his reasons for doing so are “emotionally based” and not a reflection on his performance or the outcome of his next fight.

“I don’t know. I’m an emotional guy, so I’ll just have to see what’s going on in the moment,” Poirier said of a decision that could come this weekend in Newark once the dust has settled with Makhachev, “but I’ll go home and talk to my team, talk to my wife and then make a really smart decision from there.”

“But we’ll see what happens. Life is a struggle.”