"I know it’s a huge stage to fight on but I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Now that I’m here I’m just going to make the most of it."
In 1893, Oklahoma opened up two million acres of land for the first ever Land Rush where you literally ran towards open land and could claim up to 160 acres per family. This was a dramatic and fresh way to open up the territory to people seeking a new home and a bigger opportunity to grow both personally and business-wise. Due to the Homestead Act of 1862, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, settlers that lived on the land and improved it would eventually receive the title to the land.
Now comes the part where you ask, what does the history of U.S. frontiersmen have to do with mixed martial arts? The answer now is simply everything, if you look at the world’s biggest stage, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, through the eyes of those who formerly resided in its little brother promotion, World Extreme Cagefighting. Like that great land rush at the turn of the century, MMA has been blessed with a similar opportunity with the great migration of lighter weight fighters into the UFC. Fighters both already within the Zuffa system via the WEC and those outside of it longing for their opportunity to shine now have that chance as the UFC folded the Featherweight and Bantamweight divisions into its ranks.
Former WEC fighters like Dustin Poirier are elated at the chance to be associated in whole now with the UFC and claim whatever land they may during this new land rush of 2010.
“It just came together perfectly,” said Poirier. “I’m not going to say there’s any added pressure; I know it’s a huge stage to fight on but I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Now that I’m here I’m just going to make the most of it; man, I’m just so excited to be there. This is where every mixed martial arts fighter wants to be, on the main stage, the biggest MMA stage.”
Before the merge, Dustin Poirier’s last fight was at WEC 52 against Zach Micklewright. The fight was fast, ending in 55 seconds of the first round, and it cemented Poirier’s right to stay and fight under the Zuffa banner yet again.
“I was a little bit sloppy and my technique wasn’t all there; I just kind of got caught up in the moment. It was such a huge fight for me I just knew I had to win it by any means so I just went out there and just put it on the line, tucked my chin and started brawling. I’m definitely more of a technical fighter than that; I just didn’t get a chance to show it that fight.”
Poirier’s previous showing, his first in the Zuffa system at WEC 50, yielded his first professional loss against Danny Castillo. The fight was an exclamation point on an idea Poirier had toyed with before - to move down in weight from lightweight to featherweight and really dominate. With the great migration and a chance to stake claim in the now budding UFC Featherweight division, Poirier wasted no time and made his move.
“I knew I was going to go to 145 pounds eventually,” he said. “I was kind of a smaller 155 pounder and at my first WEC fight I was kind of getting out powered by Danny Castillo. He’s such a good wrestler and a strong guy that it started to make me think that I need to lean towards that 145 pound division because I just think that’s where I’ll be able to compete to the best of my ability. I don’t think the cut’s going to be too hard; it’s not going to be too big of a weight cut. I think I was a competitor at 155 pounds, a good competitor, and I think I could be a champion at 145 pounds, so this is definitely my new weight class and I’m excited to show what I can bring to the cage on January 1st.”
The UFC brass also believes that Poirier can handle himself well at featherweight and his next opponent is a testament to such expectations, as he’ll be facing Josh Grispi. Currently riding a 10-fight win streak, Grispi has dominated by winning nine of those last 10 fights in the first round.
“I think he’s very athletic, has great timing, he moves well and he seems like he’s very strong,” said Poirier of his foe. “I’ve haven’t really got to see his ground game though. I’ve seen him slap submissions on people and finish it there, but I haven’t really had the chance to see him in transitions. I haven’t seen him take any damage. He’s real good at moving and circling; he doesn’t get hit a lot and his fights are quick. I think I’m going to be the one to hit him and hurt him and put him in some bad spots and see how he does down there and see if he can dig himself out of a hole. I plan on hurting him and just bringing the fight to him.”
Poirier, however, doesn’t see Grispi as a major challenge, and his strategy is based on the little he’s seen since Grispi has entered the Octagon.
“I think his stand-up’s a weakness; like I said I haven’t got to see any transitions too much on the ground so I’m not too sure, but it looks like he’s not too great of a wrestler, he shoots from far out. His stand-up, he has great timing, he’s long and powerful, but it seems like he has a couple of holes in there. He drops his hands a lot when he throws his kicks, he slaps his punches, he keeps his chin up in the air. He probably gets away with a lot of that for being so tall at 145 pounds, but beside the (Mark) Hominick fight I haven’t really seen too many guys really walk forward and try to touch him and I’m going to be the guy to do that.”
As the Great MMA Migration of 2010 continues on January 1st, Dustin Poirier seeks to stake his claim and thrive in the UFC featherweight division. He can only hope, true to President Lincoln’s words to the Land Rush claimants, that he can improve the division and receive his title like the early settlers did in Oklahoma.