Dustin Poirier has only one thing on his mind after one of the most emotionally taxing, physically demanding fights of his career.
“The Diamond” isn’t interested in a rematch with rival Eddie Alvarez at this juncture. Another go with Conor McGregor is not something he’s making a top priority. What Poirier wants — and what he tried his damnedest to earn Saturday night — is a shot a Khabib Nurmagomedov and the UFC lightweight title.
Poirier beat the iron-chinned Justin Gaethje by fourth-round TKO in the main event of UFC on FOX 29 in Glendale, Ariz., in an early favorite for 2018 Fight of the Year. The Louisiana native dished out an incredible amount of punishment and received plenty back, especially to his now very damaged right leg.
But in the end, Poirier stopped one of the most relentless, durable fighters in the game in Gaethje and marked his place officially among the elite 155-pound fighters in the world. There’s only one place to go from here, in his estimation.
“I want to fight for gold, man,” Poirier said. “I’m not chasing rematches with Conor, rematches with Eddie, rematches with anybody. That’s not my goal. My goal is not to get even with these guys. My goal is to prosper and be a world champion and make money and retire and say I did it.”
The top of the lightweight division is a bit of a mess. Nurmagomedov is the champion, but that is somewhat disputed. McGregor never lost the belt inside the Octagon, but has not fought since winning it in November 2016. Tony Ferguson was the interim champion, but was stripped of that distinction when he fell injured prior to UFC 223 and had to pull out of a title bout with Nurmagomedov.
So, technically there are three people at 155 who have an argument to be titleholder. And none of them have faced each other to this point. At the same time, Ferguson is going to be out for an undetermined period of time after undergoing knee surgery and no one knows when McGregor will return, especially after he was arrested last week for throwing a dolly at a UFC fighter bus, an attack that was intended to target Nurmagomedov.
Poirier (23-5, 1 NC) has stayed above the drama and excelled in the Octagon. He is unbeaten in his last four fights and has just one loss since falling to McGregor in 2014 as a featherweight.
Poirier, 29, and Alvarez do have some unfinished business. The two fought to a no contest at UFC 211 in May 2017. Alvarez landed an illegal knee on Poirier and Poirier could not continue after the blow. Referee Herb Dean ruled that Alvarez did not throw it intentionally, thereby he didn’t make the bout a disqualification.
Since then, Poirier and Alvarez have exchanged words on social media. And Alvarez finished Gaethje at UFC 218 last December via third-round TKO. While Alvarez is not booked and a rematch does seem to make sense, Poirier is shooting higher. He wants Nurmagomedov and he believes he matches up well with the wrestling machine.
“I feel like my wrestling and jiu-jitsu is so underrated,” Poirier said. “People have no idea and I would love for a chance to show you.”
More than anything, though, Poirier just wants to reach the pinnacle of the sport — the UFC championship. It’s what he’s been gunning for since he debuted in WEC in 2010. And even further back than that.
“I just want to go to sleep with that belt around my waist one night and tell my wife I did it,” Poirier said. “Years and years ago, like in 2006, my wife, I didn’t have a car, she would drive me to weigh-ins, we would sleep in broken-down motels and I would fight the next day. Just me and her. I just want to say I did it, man.”