Dustin Poirier understands the risk versus reward attached to any fight you accept in the UFC.
An interim title was put up for grabs after reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was ruled out of the event due to travel restrictions getting out of Russia due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Once the fight was signed, Ferguson vs. Gaethje was expected to headline UFC 249 on April 18 but after that show was postponed, the matchup was moved to May 9 instead. While both fighters haver verbally accepted the bout, the UFC is still ironing out the details regarding the location and venue for the show.
In terms of Ferguson’s willingness to face Gaethje for an interim lightweight title instead of sitting out until August or September when Nurmagomedov is ready again, Poirier can’t judge what goes through another fighter’s mind when it comes to accepting a particular opportunity.
A million different factors can play into that decision including financial responsibilities not to mention Ferguson last fought in June 2019, which means waiting for Nurmagomedov would put him out of action for over a year.
“It’s tough for me to call that cause I’m not in his shoes,” Poirier said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I don’t know what he’s thinking, how he’s feeling. A lot of things play into that decision making. It’s tough to say.”
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Poirier was offered a fight of his own on May 16 against Dan Hooker. Just as his camp was about to get started, he ended up leaving his camp to go home to Louisiana to be with his family due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Since that time, Poirier has done his best to stay in shape while still dealing with a lot of unknowns regarding his own return to action. That’s why it’s so hard to determine if fighting right now is a good idea or not for anybody.
“I’m staying as ready as I can,” Poirier said. “I can’t train. I can just run and hit bags pretty much. We’ll see what happens. I’m staying in decent shape but that’s not fight shape. That’s not fight camp shape. That’s not peaking for a fight. That’s just general health staying good. Staying crisp with my boxing. Stuff like that. Doing what I can do.
“Fortunately for me, I have a gym three miles away from my home, a personal gym. So I can go and hit the bags and shadow box. I have a couple buddies who have pro experience in Lafayette, La. so they’ll come meet me and we’ll wrestle a little bit here and there. Other than that, it’s just stuck in the house thinking. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple months.”
In terms of the matchup, Poirier also offered his initial opinion on the fight after it was booked for April 18. At the time, he saw Gaethje’s fight ending power as a problem for Ferguson, especially during the early rounds.
That said, Poirier understands that a short notice fight coupled with the unique circumstances surrounding this event could make any accurate prediction nearly impossible.
“This is MMA. Anything can happen on any given night,” Poirier said when breaking down the matchup. “But stylistically, I saw it matching up — the only thing that was in the back of my mind that I thought would work against my prediction was Justin’s cardio. I didn’t know how hard he was pushing before he got the call. I don’t know what kind of shape he was in.
“The endurance could have came into factor if it went past third, fourth or fifth round. Then I think Tony could have started pulling away. But in my head, I had Justin stopping him early.”
As of now, the UFC is determined to move forward with the card on May 9 while Poirier anxiously awaits word on his next opportunity as well.
He’s still locked down in quarantine with his family, doing his best to stay in shape with hopes that the UFC will come calling soon.
“I’m trying to get back to the title,” Poirier said. “I just want big fights. I want the highest ranked guys I can get. I just want to get back in there and get my hand raised.”