Dustin Poirier gets deep about why undisputed UFC title means so much to him

Dustin Poirier has done almost everything.

“The Diamond” is one of the most revered and respected athletes on the entire UFC roster. He has such a reputation for putting on exciting performances that “Fight of the Night” could easily serve as his nickname. Poirier has put together a résumé that’s nearly untouchable while facing elite competition at both lightweight and featherweight.

The only thing missing is an undisputed UFC world title, and Poirier just won’t feel his career is truly complete without it.

“I have a UFC title that says world champion with my name on it in my living room,” Poirier said of the interim belt he captured in 2019 during UFC 302 media day. “I hold that belt up high because Max [Hollloway], when I beat him for that belt, was on a 12-fight win streak. He was the current featherweight champion at the time. It’s not like I pulled a name out of a hat and beat somebody for an interim title because the champ couldn’t fight. I fought a world champion, a multiple-time world champion. That’s a huge win. So it’s up there, but it’s not undisputed.

“I said it over and over again. That’s the last spot. What else can I do in this sport? I’m not bragging up here, but I’ve been fighting so long. Of my generation, I fought the best guys at 155 pounds in the world. Some of them twice. I’ve done it all and beaten a lot of them, but I haven’t had the label of undisputed world champion.”

At UFC 302, Poirier takes his third stab at winning that undisputed title when he faces UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev in the five-round main event. The odds are against him, with Poirier considered a sizable betting underdog opposite the incumbent champ.

In fact, Poirier has only been a bigger underdog one other time in his career, and that came in his first attempt at becoming undisputed champion when he faced Makhachev’s friend and mentor, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Poirier understands the seemingly impossible mountain he’s been asked to climb, but winning that coveted undisputed title takes him back to a promise he made to himself and his future wife years before he ever competed in UFC.

“That’s the reason I ever put a pair of gloves on when I was 17 years old,” Poirier said. “To be the best in the world. And Saturday night, I have an opportunity. Twenty-five minutes to call myself the best in the world, and that’s powerful. It’s not about money. It’s not about the Hall of Fame, any records. It’s about me accomplishing something I told my wife when I was 17 that I was going to do, that I’ve been chasing and climbing back up to make happen.

“It’s not about business. It’s a personal thing that I think if I can get it done, I can look back and say I’m content, I’m proud of everything I did. I set a goal out when I was a kid, that knew nothing about what I was walking into, but kept walking and kept walking and picking myself up and I got it done.”

Ahead of UFC 302, Poirier openly confessed that, win or lose, Saturday could potentially mark his final appearance in the sport.

Poirier has talked about retirement quite a bit over the past few years, but his latest remarks aren’t meant to ratchet up the pressure just because it may be his final opportunity to become an undisputed UFC champion. Instead, Poirier says his potential retirement is always looming overhead for him, but like Al Pacino in The Godfather Part III, every time he thinks he’s out, something pulls him back in.

“I’ve been saying I’m done for the last five or six years and still beating these f*cking guys up,” Poirier said. “I’m cut different. I’m like Pookie [from New Jack City], like I said, I just can’t get enough. Even though I think I have my fix, I’m back home barbecuing, watching football, at my daughter’s soccer game, and I’m like, ‘I’ve got to scratch this itch. I have to fight somebody.’

“I think that’s going back to when I was a young kid. I’ve been fighting as long as I haven’t [been fighting], so having a name circled on a calendar, like, everything is OK in my life when I’m preparing for a fight because I’ve done it for so long. … I can’t perfectly explain it to you, but I’m addicted to fighting.”

Poirier knows he can’t fight forever, so at some point he’s going to have to pull the plug. Whether that happens after UFC 302 remains to be seen.

“It’s feelings based,” Poirier said. “Do I want to do this again? Because I love it. I’m scared to not be able to have that opportunity to do it again. But I also know that I feel like I’m a broken record on repeat saying the same stuff in every interview, but how much can I give of myself to this sport? Every time I get in there, I’m leaving pieces I can’t get back. I say this over and over but I really mean it. This isn’t good for you and I understand that.

“Would I do it again? One hundred percent. It’s given me everything that I have and I love it, and it’s taught me so much. But I’m 35 years old and I have a daughter who’s about to be 8 years old. I have businesses. My family. My wife, I’m sure, is tired of me being gone and being in training camp and being stressed out about another fight. I’m tired of missing soccer practices, cheer performances, birthday parties. I want to be there for my family and to be in a routine. I’m very thankful for fighting and I would do it again, but at what point am I giving too much?”

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