Pinned to the top of Dustin Poirier’s Twitter page is a tweet from November 2016.
“It’s all about perseverance.”
For Poirier, that quote is not just a catchy inspirational meme-in-the-making, it’s the mantra of his fighting career as he heads into Saturday night’s UFC 236 pay-per-view main event at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta against reigning featherweight champion Max Holloway for the interim UFC lightweight title.
In fact, when the “Diamond” enters the Octagon this weekend for the 22nd time, he will officially be second only to Michael Bisping’s 26 UFC fights for most appearances before getting a title shot.
Not exactly a meteoric rise for a fighter that looked to be on the verge of greatness soon after entering the UFC.
“Some guys have had easier routes to title fights, I did it the old fashioned way,” Poirier deadpans in the UFC 236 Countdown show. “I didn’t say something cool and people get behind me. I didn’t come off a reality show, I didn’t do anything like that. I did it punch by punch against the best guys in the world.”
It was a little over seven years ago that Poirier (then 24 years old with a 4-0 UFC record) and Holloway (then 20, making his Octagon debut) first met at UFC 143, with Poirier taking down an overpursuing Holloway, then transitioning from full mount to armbar to a triangle, before rolling to a mounted triangle armbar to finish off the Hawaiian at 3:23 of the first round.
For Poirier, however, that fight might as well have never happened.
“This is a completely different fight,” Poirier told MyMMANews.com. “Seven years at the highest levels of mixed martial arts is a lifetime. Some people don’t even have careers in UFC (for) seven years, a lot of people.”
Both Poirier and Holloway would go on to suffer a common loss to Conor McGregor, and then put on spectacular performance after spectacular performance over the best fighters in their respective division, only to now have found their way back to each other. This time with a championship on the line in the main event of UFC 236 pay per view.
“That just shows our ability to overcome, and adapt and grow and stay at the top,” Poirier told MyMMANews.com.
To that point, Holloway has not lost since being decisioned by McGregor. The fighter known as “Blessed” would go on a storied run, defeating former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis by TKO to win the interim title at UFC 206 in December 2016, and followed that up six months later with a TKO win over former featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo to unify the title at UFC 212. Then he TKO’d Aldo again at UFC 218.
Holloway made it a lucky 13th win in a row this past December at UFC 231 with an impressive 4th round TKO over top contender Brian Ortega to retain his undisputed featherweight title.
This will be the first time that Holloway has fought in the lightweight class as he tries to become the 4th double champ in UFC history.
Meanwhile, Poirier has an 8-1-1 record in his last 10 fights and a current 3-fight winning streak.
That includes three straight bonus awards – a 2nd round TKO over former UFC and Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez that earned Performance of the Night in July 2018, a 4th round TKO over former World Series of Fighting champion Justin Gaethje in April 2018, and a 3rd round submission over former UFC champ Anthony Pettis in November 2017.
Now the Coconut Creek, Florida resident by way of Lafayette, Louisiana is one fight away from being a champion for the first time in his career. He has been vocal that he is going to finish Holloway, telling mymmanews.com that the difference between the two competitors is his “experience, grit, power and determination.”
Though he is understandably confident heading into Saturday, Poirier knows all too well that the fight game can be funny. One day you’re on the fast track, on a 4-fight winning streak, and the next you’re getting derailed by Michael Johnson.
Poirier was able to rebound from that very scenario, and show that aforementioned perserverance, by decisively taking out some of the sport’s biggest names. Now he has a chance to make history.
“My mindset, my determination has helped create these performances,” Poirier told MyMMANews.com.
“Just the whole thing – overcoming, staying on track, staying focused – all of that has gotten me to this point.
“April 13th, 25-minutes with Max Holloway to become interim lightweight champ. It’s exciting. I think it’s the perfect time in my career and I think the fans should be very excited about this match.”
Scott Lewis was named the Media Source of the Year by the 2018 Florida MMA Awards, and is the host of Inside Fighting Radio and General Manager of TITLE Boxing Club Jacksonville. George Adamia contributed to this story.