Can Dustin Poirier become the next UFC title contender?

Eye-catching performances against ex-champions make Dustin Poirier the latest to add his name into the 155lb title equation

‘The Diamond’ has confirmed himself as a genuine threat to the top of the UFC lightweight division. Reborn after making the move up from featherweight, he has put together a run of results that should have everyone else chasing Conor McGregor’s title looking nervously over their shoulders.

Following a shocking first-round KO to Michael Johnson, Dustin Poirier has recovered and turned in eye-opening performances in his next three fights: a convincing victory over 155lb iron man Jim Miller, a brawl with Eddie Alvarez where he had the upper hand before an illegal knee from the former champion caused the fight to end in a no-contest and, in November, a dominant victory over Anthony Pettis.

Bloodying and breaking the one-time weight-class poster boy was the most impressive performance of the Louisiana native’s career, and gave him the platform to petition UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby for a pair of fights to propel him towards a title shot in 2018. Lobbying for title fights isn’t uncommon in the Octagon but unlike most, Poirier’s performances suggest he deserves the chance to get his wish: a contenders’ showdown vs Justin Gaethje, then a shot at the belt.

 

How do you feel about your dominant win over Anthony Pettis?

It was a really fun fight to be a part of. It’s always exciting to headline a card, especially against a guy who has the style Anthony does. Those are the kinds of fights I want to be a part of and the kinds of guys I want to fight – especially a former champion. He’s always in exciting fights and doing unorthodox stuff. That challenge really excites me. I’m happy with the performance. I felt really good and it all came together. I feel like I am getting better, and I’m only going to get better from here.

 

How much of your game plan was to nullify his striking?

We know he does that flashy stuff when he gets space and gets a rhythm going. He’s a good kickboxer, but you need space and comfort to do that. I knew I was going to box and not trade too many kicks in the open with him. I just wanted to stay in his face and keep the pressure on him. I wanted to get into the clinch early and get some blood in his arms and slow him down. It was five rounds scheduled, so I wanted to get him tired and straining and in uncomfortable positions early. I thought I could do that with my boxing, and it worked.

 

When the blood started flowing, did you know things were going your way?

That was an elbow that landed and cut him really bad. I think I might have cut him with a punch over his left eye but when we were towards my corner and I was standing up, I just dropped all my weight and rolled my left elbow over the top of his guard and his arms and it landed so square in the center of his face. I didn’t see blood right away, but when it landed I knew he was going to be cut. It felt nasty.

 

Was that the moment that you felt him break?

It was the end of the first round when he rolled to his stomach and I trapped one of his arms. He then went over his back and I was grounding and pounding him. It’s tough to see some of those shots on TV. They don’t look that hard. It looks like they are glancing, but if you are inside there you know how solid they are. There might have been 10 or 20 seconds left. I felt like if there was 20 more seconds on the clock, the ref would have to step in and stop it. He wasn’t trying to get out of that. At the end of the first round, I started feeling him become less strong and less explosive.

 

After the fight, you got on the mic and told the UFC top brass exactly what you wanted next. Were they on board with that plan?

I spoke to Sean Shelby in the airport. He said it was a great performance and that he would be in touch. That was it. The reason I said it like that is because I’m not asking for it. I’m not begging for it. I don’t deserve anything. I earned it through blood, sweat and tears. Since I was 20 years old I was in the WEC. This is my 21st fight with the company. I’ve fought the best of the best. I feel like I’ve beat three world champions in Eddie Alvarez, Pettis and Max Holloway. I’ve never missed weight, I’ve never pulled out of a fight, I’ve never complained. All I do is work and show up to fight. Win or lose, I leave it all out there. I have never been in a boring fight in my life. I feel like I’ve earned this. I’m as close as I have ever been to a title shot and I know it’s coming. I’m not asking any longer, and I’m not answering the phone to fight anybody other than a title contender, or to be offered a title shot.

How determined are you to run it back with Eddie Alvarez after the way the first fight ended?

I’m not chasing Edward, I’m chasing gold. If it plays out for me and him to match up where it makes sense, then great. I would love to get that fight back and beat his ass as I was doing. He cheated. I don’t care what he or anybody else says. We both know what happened.

 

Do you feel like you are ready to kick in the door and break into the top five of the division?

I belong with those guys. I belong in there. I can beat any one of those guys. It took me a long time and a lot of fights, but now I know I belong. I’m not wondering if I can do this. Now I know.

 

Have you envisioned the moment that the UFC lightweight title is wrapped around your waist?

Yeah, man. I can feel it on me. I picture it. I want to be the world champion. Ultimately that’s what I fight for. Of course, I am providing for my family and giving my wife and daughter the best life I possibly can. My goal in this sport is to say I did it. Whatever happens after that, I don’t even care if I defend it. I just want to wear that belt. I want to earn it in blood, sweat and tears. I want to go to sleep with it around my waist and wake up the next day and say I did it. Whatever happens after that, I had a great career. Of course, I want to defend it 20 times and become a hall of famer, but I just want to say I f**king did it. I want to be the world champion and say I earned it.

 

What made you decide to auction off your UFC fight kits and donate the money to charity?

Before the Alvarez fight, right after Jim Miller, we decided to move back to Louisiana to be closer to family . We were packing up my house in Florida and I had so many plastic drawers full of fight stuff. It was cool after the first five or six fights, but 21 pairs of gloves and shorts got a little weird. We said, let’s donate the money to whatever charity is in need at the time around my community in Lafayette, Louisiana. That’s what we did starting with the Eddie fight. With the auction for the fight kit, we gave proceeds to the Second Harvest Food Bank and we raised 3,000 meals for a family that needed it. My eBay auction with my fight kit from the Pettis fight sold for $6,500, and I am giving that to the fallen Lafayette Police Cpl. Michael Middlebrook’s wife and the daughters he left behind.