Moments after his thrilling victory over Justin Gaethje in the UFC on Fox 29 headliner, Dustin Poirier used his microphone time to ask for what he believes he truly deserves.
“I’ve been through two weight classes, this is my 20th fight in the UFC. I know what it’s like to battle through adversity, get knocked down, get knocked out and stand back up,” Poirier said. “I would never ask for something unless I knew I earned it. So, Dana, Sean… Khabib, let’s go.”
Porier’s plea to UFC President Dana White and matchmaker Sean Shelby did not go unheard. While “The Diamond” might fall somewhere behind the likes of Georges St. Pierre, Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson on lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s wish list, the American Top Team product is in the title discussion. In fact, White says, Poirier was on the short list of potential replacement opponents for Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 last week. The Dagestani grappler ended up outpointing Al Iaquinta to claim the lightweight strap.
“Absolutely. He’s definitely in there,” White said of Poirier on Fox Sports 1. “He was one of the guys we were thinking about calling last week to take the fight, but I didn’t want to screw up this event. And thank God I didn’t.”
Since moving to the lightweight division in 2015, Poirier has lost just once in nine Octagon appearances, and in addition to Gaethje, he owns notable wins over the likes of Anthony Pettis, Jim Miller, Bobby Green, Joseph Duffy and Yancy Medeiros. Of course, Nurmagomedov represents an entirely different type of challenge, as Poirier’s Saturday night opponent pointed out.
“Khabib’s the best in the world. Dustin’s tough. He’s not necessarily a wrestler,” Gaethje said. “You have to stop Khabib from putting you against the fence and if you can’t do that, you’re f---ed.”
In an interview on FS1 after the event, Poirier didn’t seem overly concerned about the stylistic difficulties a matchup with the new lightweight king would present. Instead, he simply wants to cash in on an opportunity he believes he has earned.
“I’ve put nothing but hard work in. I’ve been close to the mountaintop and I’ve been knocked down,” he said. “I’ve showed resilience and fortitude and I’ve done it over and over again to put myself back in that position. And I’m hitting my stride as a father, a fighter, a husband, a person. I’m ready to go and gold is next. I feel it in the air. It smells like leather and gold out here.”