The thought of etching his name in mixed martial arts history on Sunday (AEDT) gives former UFC interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier “chills”.
Poirier (28-6, 1NC) will do battle against defending champion Charles Oliveira (31-8, 1NC) for the undisputed title in the UFC 269 main event in Las Vegas.
Poirier has run the gauntlet of killers to reach this point, beating Conor McGregor twice, Max Holloway, Justin Gaethje, Anthony Pettis, Eddie Alvarez and Dan Hooker in the last four years, with his only loss during that stretch to the division’s greatest ever Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“I need a vacation,” he joked.
“It’s very special to me because I have the opportunity to be the world champion.
“I want it so bad, it’s very important to me.
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“If I can become the world champion Saturday night, I’ve done it all in the sport – everything that I’ve set out to do.
“I have to check that box – that’s forever … this is 25 minutes for eternity, that’s what this is. You don’t take that away. Once a champion, always champion.”
But rather than the immediate aftermath of the fight, Poirier was looking forward more to the next day when he could escape the “rush of madness” and experience what it would feel like to be champion with his family away from the glare of the media.
“When I get on that airplane with my wife and daughter the next day and I can exhale, nobody’s asking questions, I can hold the belt with my family – that’s what I think about, that feeling,” he said.
Making this title shot even more satisfying for Poirier was that he admitted he probably would’ve missed out on it if he lost his trilogy fight to McGregor in July.
“I knew that going into that fight, in the back of my head I was gambling on myself,” he said.
“Every fight is a roll of the dice no matter how prepared you are. What we do is a crazy thing, this sport is crazy but it all worked out.”
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Poirier has designs on finishing his career as a welterweight, but saw himself defending the lightweight belt for a while if he was victorious on the weekend.
“The lightweight division has been very top heavy for the last few years and it seems like it’s not going anywhere,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, fellow veteran of the octagon Oliveira heads into the showdown in brilliant form as well, having won his last nine fights in a row, and Poirier actually felt happy for the Brazilian when he beat Michael Chandler to clinch the belt at UFC 262.
“I’ve been watching that guy a long time, we’ve both been in the same waters, (1)45 (pounds), (1)55 (pounds) for the last decade in the UFC and there’s a list of guys that when they won the belt it was really special to me and he’s on that list,” Poirier said.
“Underdogs … the guys who were counted out a couple of times and made it happen and I’m trying to add my name to that list.”
But Poirier fully understands that if he is to accomplish that goal, he will certainly be made to earn it by Oliveira who not only owns the all-time UFC record for finishes (17), but also submission wins (14).
“He’s as dangerous as any of the other top guys I’ve fought, just in other areas,” Poirier said.
“His submission game numbers don’t lie, he’s the most dangerous ever to hit the canvas in the UFC.
“He throws big knees, big kicks, powers shots. He keeps himself protected, throws a good sharp hook that he hit Chandler with – he does a lot of things well on the feet.
“He’s not a point fighter, he’s trying to finish you.”