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Dustin Poirier admits he reached a ‘breaking point’ before surprise booking of Max Holloway fight

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The booking of Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway at UFC 236 wasn’t only a surprise for fight fans — it was also a total surprise to Poirier himself.

Poirier and Holloway are set to collide on April 13 in Atlanta, Georgia in the main event of UFC 236. An interim UFC lightweight title will be up for grabs in the bout. And for Poirier, a 30-year-old top contender who has called for a chance to vie for lightweight gold since his July 2018 knockout of Eddie Alvarez, the idea of being matched up against the UFC’s reigning featherweight champion for the opportunity of a lifetime came as a bit of a shock.

“This wasn’t even in the realm of [possibility],” Poirier said Monday on The MMA Hour. “When I was sitting back and getting frustrated and thinking about the fights that could be available, or even thinking outside the box, this was a fight I never put together. It really came together out of nowhere, and here we are, man. Contract signed. It’s happening, April 13th.”

Poirier (24-5, 1 NC) is currently the No. 3 ranked fighter in what is a very muddled UFC lightweight title picture. He has lost just one of his last 10 contests since moving back up from 145 pounds in 2015, a streak that culminated in a recent trio of impressive TKO stoppages over the likes of Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, and Alvarez.

Poirier has expressed frustration numerous times in recent months about the uncertain state of the lightweight division. With UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov suspended for his role in the UFC 229 post-fight brawl and threatening to sit out until November, and Conor McGregor publicly flirting with a fight against Donald Cerrone, Poirier and fellow top contender Tony Ferguson appeared to be the odd men out of the title picture.

Nonetheless, Poirier had faith that something big was coming his way, which is why he traveled to south Florida this past December to begin a seven-week mini-camp at American Top Team so he could be ready to go on a moment’s notice.

Somehow, his plan worked out.

“You know what the crazy thing is? I came through south Florida seven weeks ago and I just stayed here,” Poirier said. “I didn’t go back home. I felt like something big was coming. I didn’t know what could’ve happened. I didn’t know if the Nate (Diaz) fight was going to be rebooked. I didn’t know if I was going to fight Tony. The suspensions (for the UFC 229 brawl) weren’t even handed down yet. I just came down here at the end of December because I felt like something big was coming, and I was correct. Here we are, I’m fighting for the belt. So I’ve been in the gym, I’ve been at American Top Team. I don’t come out here and hang out. When I’m in south Florida I’m training, resting, training. I’m working on my craft out here, very tediously. That’s what I come out here for.

“I had actually booked a flight home,” Poirier added, noting that he had reached his “breaking point” in the days before the UFC offered him Holloway. “I had actually booked a flight home for today, and obviously I changed my flights and stuff, but yeah, I was planning on going home. I was like, I’m just going to go back. I’ve been out here seven weeks, eight weeks. Nothing’s happening. There’s no clarity in the division. And I was just going to go back home with my family a little bit, but we got the call. Perfect timing. And here we are, man.”

While the introduction of Poirier vs. Holloway for the interim belt does offer some clarity for the logjam at the top of the lightweight division, it also creates more unanswered questions as well. Namely, Holloway’s surprise arrival to 155 pounds appears to leave former interim champion Tony Ferguson as the last man standing without a clear direction in the title picture, despite Ferguson’s current 11-fight win streak.

But Poirier isn’t a matchmaker, and he knows he can only control what’s in front of him.

Lightweight is already mixed up so bad right now, and so I don’t know,” Poirier said. “I’ve said it before, I’m not a matchmaker, I don’t call the shots. I just prepare and fight the guys after I sign the contract. So, you know I was getting frustrated with the whole situation at lightweight, and that’s just what it is. I don’t know what to say. I’m not a matchmaker, I don’t know the logic behind the decisions they make. But I’m happy with this one.”

Some newer fans may be surprised to discover that Poirier vs. Holloway is actually a rematch. The two Americans actually first locked horns in 2012 in a featherweight fight at UFC 143 that served as Holloway’s Octagon debut. Poirier won that contest in a little over three minutes with a nifty mounted triangle-armbar submission, but looking back, “The Diamond” knows that little if anything can be gleaned from a bout that took place when both men were in their developmental infancy as professional fighters.

“We’re completely different fighters and completely different people,” Poirier said. “Seven years is a long time, and seven years of fighting the best guys in the best organization in the world, the biggest organization in the world, it hardens you. You don’t stay seven years without evolving. It doesn’t happen. You get pushed out of the company if you don’t. So, we both grew, we both took losses and came back from them, we both made the adjustments, and here we are — seven years later, man, fighting for the gold strap.”

For Poirier and Holloway, the rematch at UFC 236 comes at a moment when the two men are both hitting the prime years of their careers.

Just like Poirier, Holloway is currently riding a career-best run that features a 13-fight win streak against the most talented featherweights in the world, including a quartet of consecutive TKO stoppages over Pettis, Jose Aldo (x2), and Brian Ortega.

But Poirier has been working toward a brush with gold for the entirety of his fighting career, and now that it’s finally here, he feels like he’s finally ready to fulfill his destiny.

“I was actually telling my wife that. I wouldn’t have been ready for it. Two years ago, I just wasn’t ready for it,” Poirier admitted. “Right now is perfect timing. I just feel really good mentally. Physically, I’m in a good place. I know what I can do, I know how dangerous I am, I know what I’m capable of, and it really couldn’t have come at a better time. I really feel like I’m hitting my stride and coming into my prime as an athlete.

“Something in my brain flipped [once I got the call]. Something, like a switch flipped. I went from just being out here training, having fun, to that next training session, I was locked in just like that. I know the task ahead of me, I know what it’s going to take of me, and I just know — I know what it takes to be a world champion. I’ve been around world champions and it’s just in me. I just know what it takes to be a world champion. I’m going to show you all on April 13th. This is going to be my best performance. I can’t wait, man. I can’t wait.”