Dustin Poirier was a slight betting underdog coming into his now-legendary battle with Max Holloway, and he cashed in on winning the main event of UFC 236 on Saturday with a performance of a lifetime.
Poirier nearly captured the UFC’s interim lightweight title a few moments into the fight when he clocked and rocked Holloway with a furious barrage of punches to the head. “The Diamond” had his foe on rubbery legs early and often in the first and it seemed like the Louisiana native was going to have an easy win. However, “Blessed” showed unbelievable grit and forced Poirier into a five-round war for the ages.
“It was a tough fight,” Poirier said after his triumph in Atlanta. “I might have won the first. Then he had me hurt, then I had him hurt. I was bleeding, he was bleeding. It was a high-level fight and that’s what fighting is. It hurts, it’s painful.”
Poirier had to survive later on in the duel, but he never wilted under the Hawaiian’s late pressure. “The Diamond” slammed a knee to Holloway’s face in the fourth and the flesh between his left eye and nose was split wide open. Blood was gushing everywhere, but Holloway never quit and forced Poirier to find another gear and duke it out until the 25th minute if the war.
“There are times you might want to get out, but you learn to be comfortable with the unknown,” he said. “The Octagon is the fear of the unknown. There’s a chance I could lose – get knocked-out, choked out whatever, that’s why people come to see the fight. It’s unpredictability and the fight for survival.”
Poirier won a somewhat surprisingly lopsided unanimous decision when it was all said done, but the fight was so brutal and close that it felt like a split decision was in the cards. Either way, the American Top Team star won and captured the interim title at 155 pounds with his conquest, and it’s a feeling he said he can’t put into words.
“Words can’t describe this feeling,” he said. “I’ve got the belt. I’m going to take it home to my daughter and take her to the zoo on Monday. I’ve said it before, it’s cool to prove it in front of all these people but I had to prove it to myself. This means everything to me.”
All eyes are set on a lightweight championship unification bout, and that means Poirier will have to now focus on reigning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is currently idle due a suspension he was given stemming from his post-fight brawl at UFC 229 in October. Naturally, it’s the fight Poirier wants.
“Whenever they want to do it, I’m down,” he stated. “This is a piece of the world title and we gotta unify the title.”
UFC president Dana White stated at the post-fight press conference that the only fight for Poirier is Nurmagomedov.
“That’s the fight,” White said. “Poirier will fight Khabib next, probably in September.”
As of now, not one man has been able to figure out to conquer “The Eagle,” who is 27-0 with 17 stoppages. Nurmagomedov has eliminated everybody he’s faced and seems unstoppable inside the Octagon, but Poirier says he has what it takes to beat the Russian.
“Grit, determination, the right amount of crazy, self-belief,” he declared. “Everything it takes to be a champion, I have.”