At UFC 281, Dustin Poirier scored another big win when he submitted Michael Chandler after a bloody back-and-forth war. The battle earned Poirier his eighth “Fight of the Night” bonus, tying the category record, and he solidified the former interim champion as one of the most exciting fighters of his generation.
Now, with victories over fellow violence stars Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Conor McGregor, the question for Poirier is, what’s next? And right now, “The Diamond” isn’t quite sure.
“Big fights. Fun fights,” Poirier told Ariel Helwani on MMA time. “I don’t know, man. I finished the triangle of violence – finished Gaethje, finished Eddie, finished Chandler. There’s a bunch of fights that would be crazy matchups, I just don’t know a name right now.
Poirier’s victory not only cemented his good faith in the excitement department, but kept the former interim champion entrenched in the top 5 of the lightweight division. As such, the next most obvious opponent for Poirier would appear to be fellow top 5 lightweight Beneil Dariush. Dariush is currently on an eight-fight winning streak in the division, and after UFC 281, “The Diamond” agreed a bout with black belt BJJ would make sense.
However, given some space after fight night, Poirier seems to have had a change of heart.
“Not really, honestly,” Poirier said when asked if he wanted Dariush next. “Without disrespecting Beneil. Great fighter and he did it the right way. He’s a very respectful guy, a hard worker, and he goes out there and takes care of business, and I respect that. I will watch when he fights. When we just talked about the other names I’ve fought recently, that one isn’t super exciting when I think about it.
Poirier instead seems to be focused on pursuing marquee matchups with other marquee opponents. Those who, like Chandler, filled him with a sense of danger and had the potential to go down in history.
“I want them, because they’re going to be fun fights, crazy fights, potential ‘Fight of the Year’ type fights,” Poirier said. “But it’s also the fights that give me those butterflies in my stomach every day, or when the deal is done, and I see his name in the face. I watched [Chandler] a long time in Bellator, and I know some guys he’s beaten. He’s very explosive, and that danger – it’s always the unknown, no matter how prepared you are. But when you go out and you have a guy of that caliber, who can finish the fight in a second and hit you with shots, cover distance, a lot of things he does are very dangerous.
While Dariush is undeniably dangerous, he’s not generally considered to bring the same level of action and interest as guys like Chandler, Gaethje and McGregor, and given that Poirier is one of the biggest stars in the sport, the former interim champion has some leeway in how he wants to proceed.
If Poirier is entirely focused on another title run, then Dariush is probably the easier path to take. But while he prefers more marketable fights instead, that doesn’t stop him from chatting about the title. After all, as Poirier notes, Islam Makhachev winning the lightweight title creates new opportunities and new paths to the belt.
“It opens doors,” he says. “It creates new clashes and things like that, but I always knew there was a way to the belt, even though Charles had the belt. I can do whatever I think. I knew I could. climb the mountain again, it was just, do I want to get through the killers and do I want to fight another three, four times to get back in position I’m taking this fight one at a time. retirement speeches or something, but I’ve been doing this for so long and I’ve been so high and low on it, it’s just one fight at a time.
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