Dustin Poirier thinks Islam Makhachev is underestimating him ahead of UFC 302

Dustin Poirier believes Islam Makhachev could be underestimating him.

In June, Poirier challenges Makhachev for the UFC lightweight title in the main event of UFC 302 in Newark, N.J. It was a somewhat surprising opportunity for Poirier, as “The Diamond” was knocked out by Justin Gaethje less than a year ago, but when Makhachev’s other obvious contenders all were unable to make a quick turnaround to fight in June after UFC 300, Poirier got the nod, as he explained on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour.

“The main event was already over with when I got the word back from [UFC executive Hunter Campbell],” Poirier said. “But as soon as that fight [between Arman Tsarukyan and Charles Oliveira] ended, he called me and said, ‘Hey, I’m walking back there right now. I’ll let you know soon. You might be up next.’ I’m like, ‘Oh shit!’ My heart is pumping, I’m sweating, I’m around a bunch of fans. I’m like, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’ And I went back to my room with my wife and my niece, and then waited for the call — and it came through.

“So I flew from there to Lafayette, Louisiana, the next day, packed my bags and flew straight to training camp. Because that wasn’t full notice for me as well, but I’m not in a position to say, ‘Hey, I want eight weeks.’ I’ve got to jump on this thing and try to win this thing.”

Standing in Poirier’s way is the current No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world in Makhachev. A protege of lightweight GOAT Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev successfully defended his belt twice in 2023, both times against fellow top pound-for-pound fighter and then-featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. Makhachev has not lost in almost nine years.

That appears to have given the champion plenty of confidence, as he recently declared that Poirier would be an “easy” fight for him. But the pride of Lafayette says Makhachev is in for a rude awakening.

“I kind of feel like some of the stuff he says, he might not [respect me],” Poirier said. “But I’m going to put my hands on this guy. I’m coming in there to hurt him. This is my last shot. Mom’s spaghetti. Let’s go.

“I haven’t been keeping up a whole lot but when I was at the gym, Mike Brown told me, ‘Man, I think this guy may be underestimating your jiu-jitsu and underestimating how dangerous you are.’ I think what he was referring to was an interview with Islam saying, ‘This is an easy fight for me.’ I was tagged in a bunch of stuff on Instagram and Twitter of him saying that. And I don’t know, maybe he goes about all fights like that, but I can finish and beat anybody at 155 pounds in the world. I really believe that. And he doesn’t have to believe it. I’m the one who has to believe it and go out there and beat his ass. I can do that.”

Poirier is a former interim lightweight champion and has already challenged for the lightweight title twice before, getting submitted by both Khabib Nurmagomedov and Charles Oliveira. The Oliveira fight seemed like it might be the last chance Poirier would ever get to fulfill his “Paid in Full” motto, but fortune smiled upon him one last time, and Poirier is treating this title shot as exactly that: One final opportunity, 25 minutes to make the world fair and to realize all his dreams.

“I don’t think I’m going to be around to get another shot,” Poirier said. “That being said, I’m not putting the pressure onto myself to where it’s shaking me. It just is what it is. I’m a realist. I try to be optimistic and keep the best mindset, but I understand what it is. I’m 35. The division has to move on at some point, but I’m trying to finish this thing. The reason that I put a pair of gloves on at 17 years old was to say I’m the best in the world, and June 1st, I plan to do it.

“My daughter is going to be there front row for the first time ever. I want to show her that you can accomplish your dreams. This is a big deal to me. It’s more than fighting. Like I said before, what I’m fighting for is worth more than silver and gold. It’s my life, to have this feather in my cap — if it is the last one, to walk away from this sport content. I just want to go through life content. And winning isn’t guaranteed. Of course. I’m fighting the No. 1 pound-for-pound guy, but I’m putting myself in position physically, mentally, to be in the best position I can be and make this a reality. It is what it is. Dream chasing. Story of my life.”

UFC 302 takes place on June 1 at the Prudential Center.

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