That’s been a major narrative leading into their fight at UFC 269 this weekend as Oliveira has continued to defend himself against accusations that he’s been a quitter many times in his career when facing true adversity. Presumptive No. 1 lightweight contender Justin Gaethje has been quite vocal in his criticism about Oliveira, who has constantly fired back while pointing towards his current nine-fight win streak including a comeback victory over Michael Chandler to become champion.
For his part, Poirier can’t predict if Oliveira has truly overcome those obstacles but he’s anxious to see who breaks first on Saturday night.
“If it’s in there, we’ll find out,” Poirier said about the perception that Oliveria quits when faced with adversity. “But I can’t bank on that. We’ll see. He showed grit in his last fight against Chandler.
“He got hurt, almost got finished, came back and knocked the guy out. Your last fight is the one I go off of and he showed championship grit.”
Despite walking into the fight as the challenger, Poirier has been regarded as the favorite over Oliveira with many calling him the “uncrowned champion” at 155 pounds even without a title belt wrapped around his waist.
While the compliments are nice, Poirier isn’t looking past Oliveira as if the result in this fight is already a foregone conclusion because he knows the Brazilian didn’t become UFC champion by accident. In fact, Poirier would consider himself an Oliveira fan after running on a parallel path with him for most of their careers.
“I’ve been watching that guy a long time,” Poirier said. “We’ve both been in the same waters, [145, 155 pounds] for the last decade in the UFC. There’s a list of guys when they won the belt was really special to me and he’s on that list. [Michael] Bisping’s on that list. Robbie Lawler’s on that list. Underdogs.
“Of course everybody’s fighting against adversity but the guys who were counted out a couple times and made it happen. I’m trying to add my name to that list. That’s the goal here this weekend.”
It’s hard to consider Poirier an underdog any longer considering the murderer’s row of opposition he’s faced and defeated in recent years but he always carries that same kind of mentality into all of his fights.
There have certainly been times in the past when Poirier was counted out, which is the mistake he refuses to make where Oliveira is concerned.
“He’s as dangerous as any of the other top guys I’ve fought, just in different areas,” Poirier said about Oliveira. “His submission game, numbers don’t lie. He is the most dangerous ever to hit the canvas in the UFC.
“We didn’t put that aside in training camp. We really focused on the fence and fight IQ on the ground, where I’m at in the rounds and risks I need to take. He’s very dangerous.”
The pressure to win has probably never been higher for Poirier, especially considering this will be his second chance to become undisputed champion after falling short in his previous attempt while facing Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2019.
Of course no one has higher expectations for Poirier than he does for himself and that’s why he’s not afraid to address the importance of a win at UFC 269 when it comes to his lasting legacy in the sport.
“If I become world champion Saturday night, I’ve done it all in this sport,” Poirier said. “Everything I’ve set out to do. I’ve set my family up, we’re in a good position financially. Other businesses outside of fighting going on. I have to check that box. That’s forever.
“I was saying 25 minutes to make life fair. This is 25 minutes for eternity. 25 [minutes] until eternity. That’s what this is. You don’t take that away. Once a champion, always a champion. It’s very important for me and my wife. None of this was done in vein, regardless of what happens Saturday night. But it just cements everything.”
As far as what comes next, Poirier isn’t ready to commit to anything just yet but maybe there could be a second title added to his resume one day in the future.
“I have to perform Saturday night and get that belt and then we’ll take it from there,” Poirier said. “Sitting here thinking about it, probably defend the belt. I do believe one day I’m going to fight at 170 pounds in the UFC. I’m not sure if I’m going to make a title run, a career run but I’m 32, I’ll be 33 next month. I still feel good. I’m injury free. I feel healthy so I can continue to do this as long as my body allows me and I feel good.
“But the goal is just to put that world champion next to my name and cement that in history. That’s all I’m really focused on.”