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Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje tout UFC 291 as ‘legacy fight,’ address BMF belt vs. interim title comparison

Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje believe there’s more on the line than a belt this Saturday.

The lightweight fan-favorites headline UFC 291 at Delta Center in Salt Lake City, meeting in a rematch of their epic UFC Glendale scrap in April 2018 that Poirier won via fourth-round knockout. At Thursday’s pre-fight press conference, Poirier and Gaethje were asked if fighting for the “BMF” title this time around gives the matchup even greater importance.

“I’ve seen it on TV and it’s beautiful,” Gaethje said. “It’s going to look great on the wall. This does a lot for our legacy. We all dream of creating a legacy that will live on forever, so this is part of that, this is a huge statement.”

Poirier agreed with Gaethje’s sentiment and vowed to add a second BMF belt to the American Top Team trophy case, after Jorge Masvidal won the inaugural edition of the title back in 2019.

“That’s what it is,” Poirier said. “This is a legacy fight. We have one of these sitting in my gym and this one’s going right next to it.”

Poirier and Gaethje’s first fight topped many year-end lists (including MMA Fighting’s own Fight of the Year feature), and a rematch between the two has remained a popular fantasy booking, even as both fighters continued to chart their own successful paths in one of MMA’s deepest divisions. Poirier captured an interim lightweight title at UFC 236, while Gaethje did the same at UFC 249.

In the aftermath of their first brutal encounter, Poirier once told Gaethje at a subsequent UFC event that he wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to fight him again.

Even still, he didn’t hesitate once the call officially came.

“When I was sitting by him and I said that, the fight hadn’t been offered,” Poirier said. “I didn’t think that was the next fight or that was going to happen. When my phone rang and they said, ‘It’s Justin,’ I felt those butterflies and I said, ‘We’ve got to do it.’ That’s what that was.”

Beyond becoming the next fighter to hold the Bad Motherf***** title, it’s unclear where a win places Poirier or Gaethje in the rankings, though another shot at the lightweight championship remains a possibility. That’s the prize Poirier and Gaethje are keeping in their sights, even with another piece of hardware on the line Saturday.

“[The BMF title is] a great part of history, it’s great for my legacy, it’s cool to even have your name in the hat to be considered to fight for something like this, but the undisputed title is the ultimate prize,” Poirier said when asked to compare UFC 291’s prize to an interim title. “And the interim belt was a piece of that. It was a step away from being the undisputed world champion, and that’s the ultimate goal.”

“Same thing, this is awesome, but other than legacy it doesn’t do anything near as much as a world championship belt,” Gaethje added. “I think this catapults either one of us, the winner of this fight, into that [title] fight, and that’s all that means right there.”

Heading into the rematch, Poirier appears to have an advantage on paper given that the results have typically gone in his favor when facing past opponents multiple times. He holds rematch wins over Conor McGregor, Max Holloway, and Eddie Alvarez.

As impressive as it is to have scored definitive wins in those series, it’s not an aspect of the matchup that Poirier is hanging his hat on.

“We fought five years ago,” Poirier said. “Me and my team, this whole camp, we went about this like it was a new fight. We watched the first fight between me and him when I first got to camp and I haven’t seen it since. This is a new fight.”

“It’s not like I’m using that [first fight] as momentum, I’m using my career as momentum,” he continued. “My last fights, the growth, my confidence, my mindset, all of that, that’s what’s driving me forward, not that fight. Like I said, this is a new fight. If we didn’t get better in five years, we wasted five years of our lives.”

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