If Dustin Poirier's public statements are to be believed, he considers his challenge tonight in the form of Chan Sung Jung to be appropriately formidable. There's no talk of Jung not deserving his place, lacking power, technical skills on the floor or a general sense of gameness. If anything, Poirier is looking to collect Jung's scalp precisely because of its perceived value.
On the other hand, the Louisiana native isn't ready to heap huge amounts of praise on his South Korean opponent or some of his celebrated accomplishments. Yes, the Twister he scored on Leonard Garcia is noteworthy, but Poirier doesn't believe that act is a proxy for a deeply technical jiu-jitsu. Poirier acknowledges Jung's starching of Mark Hominick is impossible to discount, but Poirier isn't convinced that knockout is definitive proof of power or polished striking skills.
Poirier's aim for this bout is clear: affirm Jung is a worthy adversary while also proving his own talents and abilities have greater depth, breadth and refinement. Poirier admits Jung has both highlight reel knockouts and submissions, but that they deceive fans into thinking Jung's game is more dangerous and complete than it actually is.
In this interview with MMA Fighting, Poirier discusses the evolution of his skills, the pressures of headlining a card, who he believes will win the Eric Koch vs. Jose Aldo bout, why those with difficult upbringings tend to make the best fighters and what he makes of the punching of Jung.
Excerpted transcript below:
Luke Thomas: You're at the top of a card and I spoke to Clay Guida about this because he's at the top of a card coming up. Any additional pressures headlining a show? Obviously you want to win, but do you feel it when you're headlining?
Dustin Poirier: There's always the pressure to win. That never goes away, but being a main event, I want to go out there and put on a great show for the fans and live up to being a main event. That doesn't really stress me out or pressure me anymore. The fight is enough. I always want to go out there and get it done.
Luke Thomas: What is the state of the featherweight division today? Do you feel like the contendership is being properly sorted? Is Hioki the guy who should be after Koch or is it you if you should win on Tuesday, where is it?
Dustin Poirier: I think it was kind of in scrambles, but it's coming together over the last couple months. Tuesday night if I win, maybe I should be next in line or maybe I should get the Hatsu Hioki-Ricardo Lamas winner
Luke Thomas: Do you feel it's contingent upon performance, not just a win or a loss?
Dustin Poirier: Definitely, I think that's gonna have a lot to do with it. If I go in there and knock out of the Korean Zombie, for sure. That's what's gonna happen so we'll take those steps.
Luke Thomas: Do you think he'll be treated more as a favorite for this one? And I don't mean oddsmakers, I'm speaking from an audience perspective.
Dustin Poirier: Yeah, I definitely expect that. He's got a huge fan following because of his epic fights, his wars and his submissions. He's grown a huge following by that and I'm sure there's gonna be a lot of cheers for him and some boos and I'm sure the same for me, but I can definitely see that he has a huge fan base.
Luke Thomas: Do you believe for his first loss to Leonard Garcia and his loss to George Roop, when he actually said he was never gonna fight the same way again, he wasn't gonna blindly windmill punches. Do you believe that he has reformed his game?
Dustin Poirier: I think he's tried, but I'm definitely gonna be the one to test that out. The Hominick fight was so quick, we didn't get to see a whole lot of anything. We saw a cross and a hook. The Leonard Garcia, the second one, he was a lot more technical, but I saw at times he gets frustrated when Leonard wasn't attacking and he gets back to wanting to brawl. I'm excited to see how he's gonna come and what Chan Sung Jung is gonna show up.
Luke Thomas: Do you believe in the idea of Chan Sung Jung or any other fighter, that a fighter can revolutionize or reform their game?
Dustin Poirier: Yeah, but that takes time though. No matter how technical he tries to fight, when I touch him on his chin and he's hurt, he's gonna wanna go back to the Jung you saw. He's gonna start throwing crazy punches and swinging for the fences and I just think that's who he is. He's a fighter, man.
Luke Thomas: Talk to me about his submission game. Is it true people kind of overblow the Twister a little bit?
Dustin Poirier: I think it was incredible for him to do that. That was awesome, but just because you do a Twister, I don't think you're a world champion jiu-jitsu practitioner. He has a lot of submissions and he's no slouch, but he's not gonna be able to put me in the twister.
Luke Thomas: I've heard you talk about your specific fight camps, but fight camps are more about one guy and one specific challenge and then in the offseason or at least when you're not in camp, you like to just work on your skills. Is that a fair characterization of what you do?
Dustin Poirier: Definitely. In fight camp, I'm just kind of preparing and polishing what I have and getting ready to fight a style. Of course I'm learning new things, but that's not the main focus. The main focus is sharpening what I'm good at and trying to tak advantage of what they're not good at. The time off when I don't have a fight coming up is when I learn a lot. I get to have fun training and it's not as stressful. I'm not preparing to fight one style and I'm just having fun, learning and every fighter needs that. You can't just fight every month. Your game's gonna stay the same.
Luke Thomas: Over time, if you're not doing that stuff between camps, is that when you start to lose yourself and go stall out in terms of skills?
Dustin Poirier: I think you're right. You're definitely right. The game's changing so much, you have to be in the gym and doing new things and rolling with guys who are better. You can't just be only going to the gym when you sign a fight contract or you'll just be the same fighter every time, just more experienced.
Luke Thomas: What have you gotten best at in the last year? A year of training through the ups and the downs, the aches and the good days in the gym, what has been in your mind the thing you can look at and think "I have really improved here."
Dustin Poirier: I have really improved my wrestling no doubt. I've really improved my wrestling and I've focused on it. On top of that, just refine my kickboxing a little bit better. I was kind of a brawler too and would get sloppy. But my wrestling and my kickboxing.
Luke Thomas: What do you make of Chan Sung Jung's power?
Dustin Poirier: That's a tough one too. He's got a couple knockouts on his record and he knocked out Hominick in seven seconds, but he threw hundreds of punches at Leonard Garcia that landed and couldn't put him down, but Leonard's a tough guy. I don't know man, that's something we're gonna find out when I get in there and we start exchanging.
Luke Thomas: You can obviously train defense, you can train to get in and out of range. Can you train around somebody's power?
Dustin Poirier: Of course you want to circle away from somebody's power hand and you don't want to run into something stupid. You can make those preparations, but he should be worried about my power.
Luke Thomas: Where do you think you rank in the featherweight division in terms of power punching?
Dustin Poirier: I think I should be up there man. You're gonna see it Tuesday night. In the featherweight division, I should be up there in terms of punching power.
Luke Thomas: Certainly you don't want to look past Chan Sung Jung, but people are not in this business if they don't want to be champions, certainly if they're headlining shows in the UFC. First of all, what do you make of the Jose Aldo/Erik Koch fight. Who comes out there, wins and why?
Dustin Poirier: I think that's gonna be a fun fight to watch, but I think Jose Aldo's gonna come in there and win. I think he's a little bit faster than Erik Koch and Koch's jiu-jitsu's good, but Jose Aldo's jiu-jitsu's gonna be better. Unless Koch can land something and put him out, anybody has that chance, but I don't see him winning that fight. He's not gonna win a decision and I think Jose Aldo's speed and power is just gonna be too much.
Luke Thomas: What's it gonna take to beat Jose Aldo? Why has everybody fallen short?
Dustin Poirier: I think people just, you need to walk across the cage and you need to fight. You need to hit him and let him know he's in a fight. They're starting to do the same thing they do with Anderson Silva, fight his fight and they go in there to fight not to lose. They fight not to lose and they need to go in there and try to win. Somebody needs to just go in there and have it on their mind to finish the fight and let him know he's gonna be in a battle right off the bat and try to get him backing up a little bit.
Luke Thomas: Hatsu Hioki was in a space where he could have taken a fight with Aldo and he said, "you know what? Maybe I need one more." Even if you go in there and blast Jung, do you feel like you could say, "Eh, I need one more," or are you ready for Aldo
Dustin Poirier: Well that's up to the UFC, but my main goal is to be a world champion and if they think that's the next step, for sure, but I wouldn't mind fighting Hatsu Hioki or whoever else they want me to fight. I want to get as much experience so when the time comes and I do fight Aldo or whoever is the champion at the time, that I'm ready 100 percent.
Luke Thomas: I want to talk quickly If we can about this Fightville documentary. Pat Militech said something once that you can get get good fighters from any walks of life. B.J. Penn came from a wealthy, normal family, but generally it tends to help if you've had a tough life. Do the agree with Miletich's assessment?
Dustin Poirier: I'm not sure why that's linked, but maybe just growing up rough and having a rough upbringing, working hard kind of translates to fighting and training. Every day's a fight. Fighting comes down to who you are as a person. With B.J. Penn, he has no problems, not a hard upbringing and came up with money or whatever and he's just a fighter, he enjoys the fight and he refined his skills so I don't think it necessarily has to be a rough upbringing for guys to be great fighters.
Luke Thomas: Do you believe that no matter where you came from, no matter what parents you were born to, whatever tax income bracket, whatever, you'd have found your way to fighting no matter what?
Dustin Poirier: Yeah definitely. No matter where I came from, I'm a fighter. That's what I do this for. I enjoy getting in there and I love to fight.
Luke Thomas: Is it the most enjoyable thing you do?
Dustin Poirier: Well yeah, man. Just the whole experience. Walking out there, getting in there and then going to battle, it's just so pure to me, man. It's the best. I feel like after every fight, I just go back to my hotel room and I feel like I've accomplished so much. It's just an awesome experience. You have to do it to experience it, to even know what a feeling like that is.