Dubai: How did Dustin Poirier land a shot at the UFC lightweight title in Abu Dhabi on Saturday?
Quite simply by defeating some of the most highly regarded fighters in a division that groups competitors within 156lbs to 155lbs. Guys such as Eddie Alvarez (twice), Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway, in a dominant unbeaten streak that began at UFC 211 on May 13, 2017.
No easy feat by any stretch of the imagination considering Alvarez is one of the most revered lightweights in history, Pettis is a former champion and Holloway the featherweight (136lbs to 145lbs) king.
Poirier, who turned pro in 2009, hopes to cement his reputation as the best lightweight fighter the division has ever seen, but standing in his way is the reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, the man he aims to overthrow on Saturday at the Yas Arena in Abu Dhabi.
“Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis, Eddie Alvarez, Khabib Nurmagomedov, winning over those guys in a row in main events, over and over, that’s the best run in lightweight history,” Poirier said.
“If I go out there and stop Khabib, I’m the best lightweight fighter to ever strap on a pair of four-ounce gloves. Simple and plain.”
But, we know that it is not going to be as simple as that.
Nurmagomedov is regarded as the best grappler/wrestler that the MMA has ever seen, a reputation that he has solidified by beating 27 rivals including a certain Conor McGregor on his last appearance in the UFC octagon in October 2018.
However, Poirier, says he has the self-belief and hunger to become the first man in history to stop the Russian.
Ever since his 2016 loss to Michael Johnson at UFC Fight Night at Hidalgo, Texas, the fighter who is of French descent (specifically he is of Cajun heritage), has honed himself into one of the most destructive fighters of his generation with brutal knockouts over Pettis and Gaethje.
Most recently he battled through five rounds of hell against Holloway to secure the interim title as Nurmagomedov was under suspension due to a post-fight brawl in his fight against McGregor.
If Poirier can repeat the performance he produced against Holloway at the Yas Arena on Saturday, and turn the fight into a brawl, it would be his best chance of ending Nurmagomedov’s winning streak.
He has the hands and fearlessness to do it but will Nurmagomedov allow him to do it.
The Russian is a hit man boa constrictor who will take him to the ground at the slightest chance and bring his heavy ground-and-pound and Brazilian jiu-jitsu into play.
Either way, it makes for an exhilarating fight in the purpose-built Abu Dhabi cage. Don’t miss it.
Poirier shows nifty footwork on arrival in Abu Dhabi
Poirier demonstrated some of the nifty footwork that he hopes to put into place when he fights champion Khabib Nurmagomedov on Saturday, by joining a Emirati folk troupe of stick dancers upon his arrival at Abu Dhabi.
Poirier and his team received a warm and traditional welcome as they made their way through the Abu Dhabi International Airport as several excited passengers took pictures, selfies and videos of the MMA star.
The American fighter also took to social media to post a picture of himself alongside the Emirati dance troupe and said: “Feeling the vibes, almost fight week!”
Mike Brown, Poirier’s head coach from American Top Team, also took to social media to post his own picture where he acknowledged the reception that they received calling it a “hero’s welcome in Abu Dhabi” and added that his fighter is “ready to shock the world” come Saturday night.