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Dustin Poirier explains why Conor McGregor fight still makes the most sense as he targets return in March or April

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Dustin Poirier is still on the mend following hip surgery, but he’s already looking ahead to kickstart his return to action in 2020 with a high-profile fight against a former opponent.

The former interim lightweight champion went under the knife in the aftermath of his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov back in September to repair some long-term damage to his hip that he’s been suffering through for the past six to eight years.

“They had to re-shape the head of my femur back round. They had to trim my hip socket up a little bit. I had a lot of extra bone growth just from years of stressing it out. Because of that bone growth, it caused an impingement in my hip, which tore my labrum off the bone,” Poirier said when describing the surgical procedure to MMA Fighting on Monday.

“So they repaired my labrum, re-anchored it to the hip socket and then shaved all my bones smooth again.”

It’s been five weeks since the surgery ended, and while Poirier is still months away from being able to fight again, he’s beginning early preparations for his next fight by doing everything possible to stay in shape in the meantime.

“I’ll be training hard in January and I think that late March, early April is realistic,” Poirier said about booking his next fight. “My doctor thinks that’s a realistic return. I’m going to start training hard in January and I’m actually going to be getting in shape all through December.

“I’ve actually been eating a plant-based diet to heal up. My body’s feeling great. I’m lighter than I usually am in camp right now. Everything’s going good. I’m staying positive and March or April we’ll be beating somebody up. I just want it to be the right name and I want it to make sense.”

When it comes to the “right name,” Poirier feels he’s earned a top-ranked opponent after he became the interim lightweight champion following wins over the likes of Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway.

He came up short in his bid to dethrone Nurmagomedov but that’s not going to stop Poirier from jumping right back into the deep end of the lightweight division once he’s ready to fight again.

“When they offer me a name that gets me excited then that will be the right one,” Poirier said. “A Conor [McGregor], a Nate Diaz, a Khabib [Nurmagomedov], a Tony [Ferguson], those kinds of guys get me excited.

“I just want fights like that. Fights that get me excited. Fights that are going to be exciting.”

Poirier had previously called for a fight against former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor, who was teasing his own comeback for early 2020.

Rumors have been swirling for weeks that McGregor was circling a showdown against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in January but a deal has never been finalized to make that fight a reality.

As much as he admires the kind of career Cerrone has put together, Poirier admits that McGregor was likely handpicking a more favorable matchup if that’s the fight he’s seeking. Add to that, Cerrone is coming off back-to-back losses to Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, the latter of which Poirier already finished by TKO last April.

“I respect “Cowboy” and everything he’s done but I do think he’s on the back end of his career,” Poirier said. “It’s “Cowboy,” he can show up and submit or knock out Conor as well. I’m not counting the guy completely out but I do think that is a more favorable fight for him on his return.

“Fight a guy who’s been KO’d or TKO’d twice in his past two fights. I’m not a matchmaker. I think me and [Conor] makes more sense.”

If McGregor is still looking for an opponent, Poirier would be more than happy to volunteer once he’s ready to return in either March or April.

The matchup would serve several purposes as Poirier looks to avenge a prior loss to McGregor from 2014 while each of them attempts to bounce back after falling to the same opponent in Nurmagomedov in both of their most recent fights.

It also puts the winner on the fast track towards title contention again, which is absolutely what Poirier wants and he knows McGregor desires the same exact thing.

“I think it would make more sense if he’s trying to get back to the top,” Poirier said. “I was the former interim world champion. Conor’s the former undisputed world champion. We fought years ago, we both had our separate paths and we’ve both done great things. I think this makes a lot of sense. I’m No. 2, I think he’s No. 3. It makes a lot of sense.

“I think the fans want to see it as well but time will tell. I definitely want that fight, and it’s something I want to do.”