Just six months ago, Dustin Poirier was celebrating a win over Conor McGregor after becoming the first person in mixed martial arts history to finish the former two-division UFC champion by knockout.
At UFC 264, Poirier will seek to earn a second consecutive victory over McGregor when they clash for the third time in one of the most highly anticipated fights of the year.
The trilogy came together in large part because it’s actually something Poirier wanted after the UFC came to him with an offer to either fight for the vacant lightweight title or finish his series with McGregor. According to Poirier’s longtime head coach Mike Brown, the decision really came down to dollars and cents.
“He was the No. 1 guy.,” Brown said about Poirier when speaking to MMA Fighting. “A lot of people think, me included, that Conor-Dustin fight should have been for the belt. He’s the guy that should be fighting for the title, maybe should already be champ but it is what it is.
“I think it came down to money. I don’t know exactly the details what their deal is but I know he’ll make more money in the Conor fight. I think that’s why he chose the fight. They gave him the option to fight for the belt or to fight Conor and I think it came down to money.”
As a prize fighter with a family to feed, Poirier obviously understood that a third bout with McGregor would yield him a bigger payday but it also gives him the chance to put the Irish superstar behind him once and for all.
It took Poirier seven years to get a rematch after McGregor finished him in impressive fashion back in 2014 when both athletes were competing at featherweight. Poirier then exacted his revenge with the second-round knockout against McGregor back in January.
Despite the two fights in 2021 happening so close together, Brown promises that Poirier has been able to add a few new tricks to his arsenal while preparing for whatever adjustments McGregor has made in an attempt to fix what went wrong in their previous meeting.
“You’d be silly not to think that [McGregor wouldn’t make adjustments],” Brown said. “He obviously did better in his one and only rematch that he had [against Nate Diaz]. I think Dustin has also done very well in all his rematch fights.
“He fought Eddie Alvarez twice. He fought Max Holloway twice and he seems to do better also in his rematches. He’s always made good adjustments. He’s a student and always improving and getting better and evolving. I expect to see a better Dustin in this fight than we saw in the first.”
When McGregor lost to Nate Diaz back in 2016, he stormed back five months later and won a majority decision in their rematch after five grueling rounds. The problems that plagued McGregor in the first fight didn’t come back to haunt him again and it showed how much he could learn in a short amount of time.
Of course, Brown anticipates that McGregor will attempt to do the same thing ahead of the upcoming fight on July 10 but he still expects Poirier to be too much to handle no matter how many changes have been made.
“[Dustin Poirier is] a tough match for anybody in the world,” Brown said. “He’s a monster. I mean nobody can put out the same amount of horsepower or wattage in the 15 minutes or 25 minutes, whatever the fight may be, nobody puts out more power and more wattage than this guy. Talking about power and volume combined. I don’t think anybody comes close to him. It’s not normal and the guy is a gifted guy. He’s coming, he’s punching hard, he’s kicking hard for a long time.
“It doesn’t stop. It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t fade. He’s a very powerful guy with natural born power punching and kicking and also gifted with crazy conditioning. Good luck. He’s not slowing down.”
One of the biggest weapons that Poirier employed in the rematch earlier this year was the calf-kick as he chopped away at McGregor’s lead leg and left him limping around the cage by the time the second round was underway.
Brown has witnessed the amount of damage the calf-kick can produce and while he fully expects McGregor to address that particular weakness in the trilogy fight, it doesn’t mean he’ll be able to stop it.
“It’s a monster weapon,” Brown said about the calf-kick. “It’s much more efficient and a better way to damage your opponent than the quad kick, that’s for sure. I don’t remember what the year was but it became really popular. I think it started at our gym or really close to it, in that area 10 years ago. Something like that. It’s a great weapon and Dustin uses it well.
“Even when you know what a guy’s going to do, it’s about setting things up and even if you know a guy’s got a really good double leg [takedown], good luck stopping it. If it’s set up well, anything can be used at any time.”
Perhaps one of Poirier’s greatest attributes while he’s gone on a dominant run through the lightweight division has been his durability in the face of incredible odds.
Now that’s not to say Poirier is simply tougher than his opponents or that he’s just able to absorb more damage during the course of the fight.
As much as the will to survive helps him, Brown quickly points to the sheer amount of punishment that Poirier is able to dish out minute after minute, round after round and that’s going to be hard for McGregor or anybody else to survive.
“He’s willing to dig deeper than most men,” Brown said. “When your nose is broken and your ear is bleeding, are you going to back down? Are you going to waver? Are you going to crumble? Cause he’s not.
“He is marching forward and trying to take you out no matter what the circumstance. That’s why he finds himself on top most of the time.”
Never one big on predictions, Brown isn’t going to try to call the shot for Poirier’s victory at UFC 264 but he’s confident that the result in the trilogy with McGregor will be similar to the rematch earlier this year.
It may not be a second-round finish but Poirier’s head coach fully believes he will leave the octagon with another win on his resume as he puts the rivalry with McGregor to bed once and for all.
“I expect him to win,” Brown said. “The fight game is crazy, it’s so hard to predict. I don’t like to nail things down to a prediction. I expect Dustin to win. He’s done everything to put himself into position to win. He’s ready. He’s focused.
“I believe he’ll get his hand raised. When will it be? What round? I’m not certain but I’m confident in victory.”