In the tumultuous realm of professional MMA, particularly within the UFC, the line between potential opportunity and definitive action is razor-thin. This is the environment in which Dustin Poirier, a seasoned campaigner of the UFC’s lightweight ranks, recently found himself navigating a precarious scenario that could have resulted in his headline billing at UFC 294.
Let’s delve into the timeline of events: Poirier was approached by the UFC with an impromptu offer. Islam Makhachev needed an opponent after Charles Oliveira’s withdrawal due to injury, and Poirier was a prime candidate. The phone call came at a time when Poirier had just arrived in South Florida, an arrival he described in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I just landed in Florida. My whole team is here, my coaches are in town, this happened for a reason,” he said.
This convergence of factors seemed serendipitous, offering Poirier a chance to pivot from his previous encounter, a second-round knockout defeat to Justin Gaethje at UFC 291, to a shot at the lightweight title. The Lafayette native’s response to the UFC’s inquiry, conveyed with caffeine-induced zest, was affirmative and enthusiastic.
However, as the scenario unfolded, it became clear that Alexander Volkanovski would instead face Makhachev. The Australian, moving up from featherweight, was prepared to engage Makhachev on short notice. Volkanovski, too, faced adversity in this last-minute matchup, falling to Makhachev via a first-round head-kick knockout.
Poirier’s commentary post-event did not exude resentment but rather conveyed a sense of camaraderie with Volkanovski, who had experienced the crushing weight of a defeat under less than ideal conditions. “It sucks to see a guy go out there, but also he wasn’t fully prepared. He was taking a chance to be great, and those things happen,” Poirier empathized, acknowledging the inherent risks of their profession.
Diving deeper into the mechanics of Poirier’s almost-fight, UFC Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell’s words to ESPN underscore Poirier’s keenness. Campbell stated that Poirier had been persistent, actively “bugging” him for updates on the fight’s status. This revelation complements Poirier’s own account, where he detailed the sense of urgency he felt in securing the fight and the quick turnaround he was willing to undertake. “I said yes, he told me to give him one day,” Poirier recalled about his interaction with Campbell.
Poirier’s situation highlights the unpredictability and sometimes abrupt nature of decision-making within the UFC’s upper echelons. It is a testament to the organization’s dynamism and the need for fighters to remain ever-ready for the call to action.
The latter part of the year has seen Poirier sidelined from fighting, yet his presence in the sport remains significant. A figurehead in the lightweight division, Poirier has been vocal about his intent to return, with an eye on UFC 300, a milestone event that harkens back to his long tenure with the promotion. His statement, “UFC 300 is enticing,” was complemented by his public musings over the possibility of competing at this landmark event, given his history with the UFC since UFC 125.
The discourse around Poirier’s future took an interesting turn on social media when he responded to a fan’s inquiry about facing Nate Diaz with a playful yet ambiguous, “Nathaniel??” This interaction signifies Poirier’s awareness of and engagement with the community that follows the sport closely.
While the immediate past may not have aligned with Poirier’s aspirations, his commitment to the sport and readiness to compete at the highest level remains unshaken. His statements reflect a readiness to return to action, providing the matchup is compelling and the timing appropriate. “I’d fight in six weeks, I’d fight in eight weeks if the fight made sense and I was excited about it,” Poirier professed, underscoring his eagerness to step back into the UFC octagon.
As UFC 300 approaches, Poirier’s career remains a testament to the professional and personal fortitude required to excel in the ever-evolving and challenging landscape of mixed martial arts.