The UFC makes it’s promotional debut in Hidalgo, Texas this Saturday night with Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Johnson topping the bill. Since losing to Conor McGregor and making the move up to lightweight, Poirier has certainly looked like the best he’s ever been and believes it’s just as much a mental game as it is physical and maturity over the years has played its part.
“I used to overthink a lot,” said Poirier. “In that Conor fight, with the mental warfare that kind of went on, it made me think more. It sounds like a cliché, but I’ve always cared too much about this. As I’m getting older, I’m realizing that fighting is my life, but I’m not all the way in like I was before. I was lost in it. It’s part of my life now. I’m a father and a son and a husband, and this is part of who I am. It’s not who I am. So that helps me.”
Coming in on a four fight win streak Poirier rates his opponent, Johnson, average at best and hopes this win will catapult him right into title contention.
“He’s a volume fighter – he throws a lot of punches and moves a lot, uses a lot of footwork,” said Poirier. “But I don’t think he’s great anywhere. He’s average everywhere and I’m going to break his will. I feel like Duffy would whip his ass, Bobby Green would give him a hell of a fight, Diego Ferreira would probably beat him. Is he drunk? Yancy might beat him – give him a ‘Fight of the Night’ for sure. I want the belt after this. I want Eddie. I’m going to finish ‘The Menace,’ and then I’m ready for Eddie.”
For Johnson, his back is most certainly against the wall and he realises that. Suffering back to back losses with the most recent being to Nate Diaz last December, 2016 has been a challenging year with a shoulder injury so rolling into this weekend’s main event, the stakes are high.
“It means everything,” said Johnson. “This is pretty much a do-or-die fight for me. I have to go in here and put on a great performance – I can’t walk away with an ‘L.’ It’s not a question – financial reasons, cutting block reasons. My plan coming into this promotion was to leave on the top of this promotion. I’m coming out with a win on this one.”
The shoulder injury has kept him from competing all year and Jonson believes it was hindering his performances over the last few years too.
“It was extremely frustrating,” said Johnson. “Labrum and rotator cuff surgery: (The doctor) went in there; he looked at my (rotator) cuff, said it was bad – said it had a hole in it, and found a hole in my labrum. So it’s been years of pulling this. The three months of recovery were really hard – a lot of rehab. Then I jumped right into a training camp, and it’s been great ever since. I think it was (holding me back). I honestly do. I’m not using that as an excuse for any previous fights, because I had no idea what was going on in my shoulders. But there was something going on and I’m glad my doctor found it and fixed it. I’m just happy and blessed to be able to fight,” Johnson said. My shoulders were really bad after the Diaz fight, and it means the world to be healthy and coming in here to be fighting a great opponent like Dustin.”