At UFC 281, Dustin Poirier picked up another big win, submitting Michael Chandler after a bloody, back-and-forth war. The battle earned Poirier his eighth “Fight of the Night” bonus, tying the category’s record, and it solidified the former interim champion as one of the most exciting fighters of his generation.
“Big fights. Fun fights,” Poirier told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I don’t know, man. I completed the violence triangle — finished Gaethje, finished Eddie, finished Chandler. There’s a bunch of fights that would be crazy matchups, I just don’t know a name right now.”
Poirier’s win not only cemented his bonafides in the excitement department, but kept the ex-interim champ entrenched in the top 5 of the lightweight division. As such, the most obvious next opponent for Poirier would seem to be fellow top 5 lightweight contender Beneil Dariush. Dariush is currently on an eight-fight winning streak in the division, and following UFC 281, “The Diamond” agreed a bout with the BJJ black belt would make sense.
However, given some space from fight night, Poirier appears to have had a change of heart.
“Not really, honestly,” Poirier said when asked if he wanted Dariush next. “No disrespect to Beneil. Great fighter and he did it the right way. He’s a very respectful guy, hard worker, and he goes in there and handles business, and I respect that. I’ll watch when he fights. When we just talked about the other names I’ve fought recently, that one’s not super exciting when I think about it.”
Poirier instead appears to be more focused on pursuing marquee matchups with other big-name opponents. Ones that, like with Chandler, filled him with a sense of danger and had the potential to go down in history.
“I want those, because those are going to be the fun fights, the crazy fights, potential ‘Fight of the Year’ type of fights,” Poirier said. “But those are also the fights that give me those butterflies in the stomach everyday, or when the contract comes through, and I see his name across from it. I’ve been watching [Chandler] a long time in Bellator, and I know some guys he beat. He’s very explosive, and that danger — it’s always the unknown, no matter how prepared you are. But when you go out there and you’ve got a guy of that caliber, who can finish the fight in a second and hit you with shots, cover distance, a lot of things he does are very dangerous.”
While Dariush is undeniably dangerous, he’s not generally considered to bring the same level of action and interest as guys like Chandler, Gaethje, and McGregor, and given that Poirier is one of the biggest stars in the sport, the former interim champion has some leeway in how he wants to proceed.
If Poirier’s entire focus is on making another run at the title, then Dariush is still likely the easiest way forward. But if instead he prefers more marketable bouts, that doesn’t preclude him for the title conversation. After all, as Poirier notes, Islam Makhachev winning the lightweight title creates new opportunities and paths to the belt.
“It opens up doors,” he said. “It makes new matchups and things like that, but I always knew there was a path back to the belt, even if Charles had the belt. I can do anything I put my mind to. I knew I could climb the mountain again, it was just, do I want to go through the killers and do I want to fight three, four more times to put myself in position again. I’m taking this one fight at a time. Not retirement talk or anything like that, but I’ve been doing this so long and been so high and so low on it, it’s just one fight at a time.”