Dustin Poirier has been around the fight game long enough to know the significance of what is to come.
Most UFC fighters can only dream of featuring on a card alongside a name as big as McGregor’s. For Poirier, it certainly won’t be an unfamiliar feeling, having faced the Irishman back in 2014 at UFC 178.
Dustin Poirier’s UFC journey is set to see him take on Conor McGregor early next year
The 31-year-old is a UFC veteran, having signed with the promotion almost ten years ago
The 31-year-old has come a long way since that first round knockout and, in truth, few would begrudge the Louisiana native of a second bite at the cherry.
That is because Dustin Poirier is a man who has paid his dues. Despite his relatively young age, Poirier has seen it all in the UFC, having joined the promotion back in 2010 as a young prospect.
But his journey to the bright lights of the world’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion was far from simple.
Poirier grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, the same town as former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, but the pair took very different routes to the summit of the sport.
But it has been fair from a straightforward journey for the former interim lightweight champion
Poirier grew up in the same town as UFC star Daniel Cormier, in Lafayette, Louisiana
While DC enjoyed the spotlight from a young age as a highly-rated collegiate and Olympic wrestler, Poirier opted against completing school, having endured his fair share of street fights as a teen.
‘I was in a lot of street fights when I was younger,’ he told the UFC’s official website. ‘I got into them when I was younger, then plenty through high school, and it was always something I was good at. It’s weird to say, but I found a sense of calm in the chaos. I enjoy that about fighting.
‘I dropped out in the ninth grade. I went to juvenile detention around my freshman year and things just got complicated.’
But Poirier took a different path, becoming involved in street fights and dropping out of school
The 31-year-old found himself in and out of juvenile detention before finding mixed martial arts
Poirier starred in a documentary called ‘Fightville’ that was a big hit among MMA fans
Although fighting landed Poirier in and out of juvenile centres, it also lay the foundation for an altogether more fruitful pursuit.
The lightweight contender turned his attentions to mixed martial arts, training with former MMA fighter Tim Credeur at his Gladiator Academy. Having performed on a number of small regional shows, Poirier was cast into the spotlight by a hit documentary.
‘Fightville’ followed Credeur’s Lafayette gym, showcasing the lives of the young athletes looking to make a breakthrough in MMA. A young Poirier featured heavily in the film, and was not shy in sharing his journey to the sport.
‘I definitely think fighting has opened the path to redemption for me,’ he tells the film crew. ‘I have been in boot camps and juvenile detention programs and all that stuff that is supposed to help you.
Poirier joined the UFC and trained with the likes of Jorge Masvidal at American Top Team
‘But I found something that I wanted, that I really was going to chase. No matter what roadblock was in front of me I was going to break it down and go get it.’
And go get it he did. Poirier turned professional in 2009 and racked up a record of 7-0 before being signed by the WEC. When the promotion merged with the UFC, Poirier was transferred to the latter organisation, and so begun his ascension to the top of the sport, with the help of American Top Team, who also train Jorge Masvidal.
The Diamond started out at featherweight, and quickly emerged as one of the top contenders in the division, having defeated Josh Grispi, Pablo Garza and Max Holloway.
Poirier suffered a couple of defeats to the Korean Zombie and Cub Swanson before meeting an up-and-coming McGregor. The match-up proved to be a turning point for Poirier.
The Diamond met Conor McGregor in 2014 in a tantalising featherweight clash at UFC 178
However, Poirier says McGregor ‘messed with his head’ as he suffered a first round KO defeat
The brash, eccentric, loudmouth Irishman teed the former lightweight interim champion up with superb trash talk before the fight, and handed Poirier’s first career defeat by knockout.
‘I always saw it as a plus but the Conor McGregor fight was the turning point,’ Poirier revealed in 2016.
‘I remember I was backstage getting ready to walk out and I saw him and he threw this smile and pointed at me. I don’t know why but it really got to me, man. It really messed with my head.’
After the McGregor setback, Porier decided to abandon his top 10 featherweight ranking and make the move up to lightweight, or as he told the UFC back in 2015, ‘jumped from one shark tank right into another’.
Poirier then moved up in weight class and enjoyed huge success with the ‘sharks’ at 155lbs
The Diamond beat Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez before meeting Khabib Nurmagomedov
The move up in weight class worked a treat, as The Diamond racked up a record of 10 wins and just one defeat, to Michael Johnson. With the likes of Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Pettis and Justin Gaethje on his record, Poirier could not be denied a shot at the king.
But like the 27 fighters that came before him, the Louisiana native had no answer to the unstoppable force that is Khabib Nurmagomedov. Despite succumbing to a third round submission defeat, Poirier got his biggest win that night in Abu Dhabi.
After trading their fight kits, the Dagestani pledged that he would auction Poirier’s walkout shirt, and that he would donate the proceedings to his rival’s charity.
Poirier fell short against the undefeated Dagestani, who won via third round submission
Poirier has also won the admiration of fans and fighters with his charitable work since 2018
Khabib pledged $100,000 to Poirier’s Good Fight Foundation following their fight last year
The Good Fight Foundation was set up by Poirier and his wife Jolie in 2018 to help local community initiatives as well as charitable projects overseas. Poirier’s walkout shirt sold for $100,000, which was matched by UFC president Dana White, while The Diamond auctioned Khabib’s walkout shirt for $60,200.
Poirier was handed the UFC’s Community Hero Award for his charitable work, and McGregor has pledged to donate to the cause too, such is the respect that UFC stars have for the Louisiana native.
The 31-year-old bounced back from the loss to Khabib with a unanimous decision win over Dan Hooker to propel him back among the lightweight contenders.
January 23 is set to be the Conor McGregor show, with the Irishman making his comeback to the UFC.
But for Poirier, UFC 257 is a culmination of the graft that took him from a brawling street kid in Louisiana to the popular, edge-of-your-seat fighting philanthropist that is looking to become the household name that his record warrants.