At this point in his career, Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier is a bonafide superstar in the sport of MMA. Boosted by two victories over Conor Mcgregor, Poirier’s stock has never been higher heading into a fight.
However, long before his second and third fight with McGregor, Poirier was an elite yet fringe contender in the featherweight division. Oftentimes getting within reach of title contention, he would ultimately fall short in his most meaningful fights.
In 2014, Poirier again found himself in a “win-and-in” number one contender fight against a young, brash, and unproven Irishman. Poirier, brimming with confidence, entered the contest completely assured of his ability to defeat his inexperienced opponent. Instead of a star-making turn for Poirier, a knockout loss acted as a catalyst for the Mcgregor the world knows today.
Poirier, having yet again fallen short in the biggest moment at featherweight (like his losses to Cub Swanson and Chan Sung Jung), decided to return to lightweight, a division in which he hadn’t competed since his days in the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) promotion.
Immediately, the move was fruitful for the Lousiana native, earning four straight wins in less than a two-year span in the always stacked lightweight division. Again Poirier was faced with an opportunity to make a claim at title contention in a main event spot against a lightweight mainstay in Michael Johnson.
Instead, Poirier was knocked out in the first round of a bout in which he was favored.
At that point in his career, at age 27, it seemed clear what type of career Poirier would continue to have: win a few fights in a row before losing the big one.
A Turning Point
As Poirier aged and matured in his career, his outlook on fighting changed as well. Instead of living and dying with outcomes, Poirier began to look at the whole picture of his career.
In a 2020 interview with former ESPN employee, Ariel Helwani, Poirier addressed this alteration in approach.
“A lot of time in my younger career I felt that it was life or death… I felt like everybody was against me. I felt like if I lost I would be written off. It’s the end of my career. I’m a bum if I lose this fight. And then you lose a few times you still realize (expletive) can still put this back together.”
Beyond the wins and losses, Poirier looked at the other benefits of his career.
“I’m still providing for my family. I’m still loving what I do. It’s like you’ve been bent but not broken,” said Poirier.
Following the loss to Johnson, Poirier waited nearly five months to return to the Octagon after fighting three times in a nine-month span the year before. In the return bout, Poirier competed in his first Fight of the Night victory, setting up a showdown with a former lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez.
In what was an exceptional fight otherwise, Alvarez landed an illegal blow which ended the fight. Although not officially a loss, the damage was still dealt to Poirier. Regardless, he returned to the ring again that year facing yet another former champion in Anthony Pettis.
This time, Poirier put on a show.
After dominating for the majority of three rounds, Poirier finished the former champ with a submission.
“The Diamond” followed up the statement victory with another, out-boxing and finishing the tough striker Justin Gaethje. The victory set up a rematch with Alvarez. Poirier, seemingly an improved fighter each time he stepped foot in the ring, dominating Alvarez from the opening bell until the fight was finished in the second round.
A Taste of Gold
Following four straight wins in dominant fashion, Poirier was awarded an opportunity to compete for the UFC interim lightweight title against long-reigning featherweight champion Max Holloway. The victor would assuredly face the dominant champion in recess, Khabib Nurmagamedov.
In the bout, Poirier ultimately outboxed and bullied Holloway in a fight of the night war, while also proving something to himself and to onlookers: he could win “the big one.”
Five months later, Poirier entered the ring with the boogeyman of the division, champion Nurmagamedov. Although Poirier lost the fight, the feeling surrounding him was much different than past losses. Poirer had done everything possible to win, even putting Nurmagomedov in the most danger he had experienced in the Octagon.
Falling short again, however, impacted the fighter deeply.
“After the Khabib fight, I was beat up and heartbroken,” said Poirier to Helwani on the MMA Hour. “I felt like the stars were aligning…I just blew it.”
Even with those feelings, it was clear this new version of Dustin Poirier would pick himself up and come back stronger following this defeat.
In his return fight, Poirer faced a tough challenge in a much avoided, lengthy striker who was ranked below him in what was truly a high-risk, low-reward bout. In taking the fight, he sent the message that he was adamant about building himself to another title opportunity. In winning the fight, he proved he would get there.
Just one fight after his showdown with Khabib, Poirer again found himself at the pinnacle of the sport. To McGregor, Poirier presented a clear opportunity for him to get back into title contention and near the top of the division. For Poirier, another shot at McGregor acted as a potential requiem for his missed opportunity in 2014, a chance to exercise those demons, and an opportunity to ascend to a new tier of stardom.
Poirier, as the underdog, knocked out Conor McGregor, proving definitively that the Poirier of old was long gone. The new “Diamond” didn’t love fighting as he once did, but he had never been better at it.
Again in the third fight, Poirier controlled the action again, proving that no moment was too large for the star.
Time to Shine
After ten years in the UFC, two weight classes, twenty wins, and five losses, Dustin Poirier is presented the ultimate opportunity to claim what he has long coveted: an undisputed title.
With a victory, Poirier’s redemption tour will be complete. After years of pressure, “The Diamond” will finally shine his brightest.