Dustin Poirier bypassed a recent opportunity to compete for lightweight gold to pursue a lucrative trilogy with Conor McGregor at UFC 264.
Poirier’s gamble on himself paid off, as he defeated McGregor via doctor stoppage when the Irishman suffered a broken leg at the end of the first round of their headlining lightweight bout at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night. Through it all, Poirier is happy with the route he took to get to this point, and he attributes much of his success to shutting out the noise from the outside world.
“It's the fruit of my labor. I’m happy with the position I’ve put myself in,” Poirier said. “I’ve been working so hard for so long. I’ve been dedicated my whole career, but definitely these last few years I feel like I’m coming into my own because I care less about all the noise around me surrounding fighting. Opinions, critics and MMA media can be a toxic place. I got off social media the last month because of that. I feel good.”
While Poirier prepared for his trilogy against McGregor, Charles Oliveira claimed the lightweight throne with a second-round technical knockout victory against Michael Chandler at UFC 262. It would be understandable if Poirier lacked the motivation to face Oliveira, who doesn’t possess nearly the star power of someone like McGregor, but the Louisiana native claims it’s actually quite the opposite.
“No, he’s not just a guy in the division who happens to have the belt,” Poirier said. “He’s picked himself up off the canvas time and time again, fought through adversity, through two weight classes — he’s been in the UFC for a decade. He’s not just a guy with a belt. He’s earned every ounce of gold he has around his waist and I have nothing but respect for guys like that.”
Indeed, Oliveira began his promotional tenure with mixed results while competing as a featherweight, as he compiled a 9-7 record with one no contest in the Octagon from 2010 to 2016. At that point in time, nobody viewed “Do Bronx” as a future UFC champion. Now, currently riding the momentum of a nine-bout winning streak and the owner of the promotion’s all-time submission record, the 31-year-old sits atop what is arguably the toughest division in the sport.
It’s a journey that Poirier, who endured his own struggles as a featherweight before finding himself at 155 pounds, can respect.
“I don’t know him personally. But his work history, I can’t hate on anything he’s done,” Poirier said. “It’ s incredible. That’s tougher to do than to go undefeated. Because you never learn things about yourself.
“You learn so much about yourself in those losses and climbing back to the top and getting motivated again. That’s when you find out you’re a real fighter. I’m not saying these undefeated guys aren’t. I’m just saying I have respect for somebody who’s climbed back up and won a world championship.”