There is something to be said for the power of positive thinking. In the fight game, those thoughts obviously have to be accompanied by talent and hard work, but in a sport where the right mental attitude can do wonders, Dustin Poirier is ahead of the curve, and he’s got the calendars to prove it.
“I keep calendars every training camp,” he explained last week while doing media for his UFC 236 main event against Max Holloway. “And I was going back to my calendar of last year to see what I weighed this far out from my last fight, just trying to compare for future camps and this camp. And next to the Eddie Alvarez date on that calendar, I wrote, ‘Tonight I finish Eddie Alvarez and earn my title shot.’”
Poirier halted the former UFC lightweight champion in the second round of their rematch last July, earning not just a Performance of the Night bonus, but ultimately a crack at the interim 155-pound crown. Prophetic? Yes. And for “The Diamond,” there were never any doubts.
“I wasn’t lying to myself and I made all this happen,” he said. “I wrote that down for a reason, I came out to Florida for a reason without a fight in early January. I knew something big was coming, I felt it, and next weekend I’m fighting for a world title. I don’t believe in coincidences like that. I believe this is supposed to happen.”
The commitment and belief in Poirier’s voice is evident, and he kept his focus clear ever since the Alvarez bout, even when he didn’t know what was going to happen at the top of the 155-pound weight class among champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former champs Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson. So when the call did finally come, it was a chance to exhale, if only for a minute before it was time to go back to work.
“I was excited,” said Poirier. “Over the last nine years I’ve done a lot and proven myself on a few occasions and I’ve been waiting for this call for a long time. When they said it was against Max, that was a surprise. I wasn’t that crazy surprised about the call to fight for the belt though because I felt that I was there.”
He was. And is. Since returning to the lightweight division after a stint at featherweight, Poirier is 8-1 with 1 NC, and in his last three bouts, he’s finished Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje and Alvarez, earning three bonuses in the process. It’s been a long road to get to a world title fight, and his dream of getting a belt is only days away from possibly getting fulfilled. But will it be enough for him?
“No, because the goal when I started fighting wasn’t to be the interim world champion,” Poirier said. “That’s a great milestone and a great accomplishment. And on that night, and as long as I have that belt, I’m gonna feel like the champ. But I know what needs to happen after that. And that’s the ultimate goal, to be the undisputed champion.”
So while he’s previously talked of getting the title and putting his head down to sleep by telling his wife Jolie that he did it, those plans had to be altered, because for the Louisiana native, a piece of the belt won’t satisfy that dream scenario.
“Not even a question,” he said. “I have to get more. That’s not the end. That’s a piece of the championship and I want the whole thing. That’s what fighting is for me, that’s the beauty of fighting. It’s against all odds. I’m not supposed to win on Saturday. I saw what the oddsmakers are saying; I see what the people are saying. I’m not supposed to win. But for 25 minutes, what the people say and what the oddsmakers and media write, none of that matters and I know that. All that matters is my preparation, my drive, my desire and my motivation. That’s all that matters for 25 minutes and, against all odds, I’m gonna make it happen.”
Poirier does own a 2012 win over Holloway, and while the Hawaiian is already established as featherweight champ, it does come as a bit of a surprise that Poirier is the underdog to a fighter moving up in weight. Poirier is surprised as well, but it’s not surprising that he doesn’t care either way.
“Even if I was the favorite I’d have a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “It’s about proving myself right; it’s not about proving these guys wrong.”
No matter what the oddsmakers say, what everyone will agree on is that Poirier has earned this fight and this moment, and to get here, he’s done everything right. That’s a badge of honor he is happy to wear.
“It feels good and I know I didn’t get here the quick way to the title fight,” he said. “I got here through work ethic and self-belief, and through setbacks I learned and evolved and I got here the way I feel you get the most out of every step of the way. This fight is perfect timing in my career and my life. If it was a year earlier, it would have been too soon. Right now is the perfect time and I’m just excited. Like I said, I don’t think things happen accidentally. This is when I was supposed to fight for the belt. April 13, in the dirty south of Atlanta, this is when it’s supposed to happen and I’m just excited to go out there and shock the world.”
So what does his calendar say?
“It says I’m the world champion on April 13th. I get a piece of the world championship.”