At 35, Dustin Poirier knows time is running out to win UFC lightweight crown (2024)

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Dustin Poirier was beaten up so badly in one UFC fight, he suffered a partially torn quadriceps that eventually made his leg swell so much on a flight, he compared the gnarly sight to a swollen, stuffed sausage. He’s agonized through the gruesome checklist of injuries so many fighters slog through over their arduous careers such as cracked hands, a busted nose.

Jim Miller once thrashed Poirier’s calves with the ferociousness of a lumberjack chopping down a tree, a pain so extreme, Poirier suffered a takedown and left the cage with a limp.

Yeah, Poirier won that fight.

He’s won 30 MMA fights overall and has at least one more left — a career-defining bout on a third try at the UFC lightweight championship — against Islam Makhachev in the main event of UFC 302 on Saturday in New Jersey.

Win or lose, the pull of calling it quits tugs at the 35-year-old fighter and entrepreneur, with a wife and a daughter about to turn 8 years old waiting in Louisiana for Poirier to come home. For good, this time.

In a sport dominated by personalities more coarse than cultured, Poirier stands out among his UFC brethren for his active charity work and his genteel nature that earned him widespread respect in the industry — even Makhachev has implored Poirier to reconsider a possible retirement.


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But maybe, the time has come for Poirier to leave his gloves on the canvas.

“My wife’s I’m sure tired of me being gone and being in training camp and being stressed out about another fight,” he said. “I’m tired of missing soccer practices, cheer performances, birthday parties. I want to be there for my family and be in a routine.”

There are so many moments where Poirier believes in a luxe life outside the cage, too. Poirier has strong family ties, financial security, a sterling reputation and his name on a line of Cajun hot sauces created in an ode to his Lafayette, Louisiana roots.

So why not kick back instead of trying to dodge a head kick?

“I just can’t get enough,” Poirier said. “Even though I think I have my fix, I’m back home, barbecuing, watching football, at my daughter’s soccer game and I’m like, I’ve got to scratch this itch. I have to fight somebody.”

That somebody this month is Makhachev, the 32-year-old Russian that boasts Khabib Nurmagomedov in his corner and has reeled off 13 straight wins headed into the 155-pound showdown.

“It’s my dream to fight someone like Dustin, a big name in this sport,” Makhachev said.

One of the biggest names, and best fighters in UFC lightweight history, Poirier’s career comes stamped with one dubious distinction. He’s on the short list of elite fighters to never win an undisputed championship.

Poirier pushed himself to the brink of wearing a championship belt before, only to fall short on every try. He was choked out by Charles Oliveira in a 2021 title fight. Nurmagomedov also made Poirier submit in their 2019 title bout. Each time, he fought his way back into contention, with three straight wins — highlighted by consecutive victories over Conor McGregor — after the Nurmagomedov loss. Poirier is coming off a Fight of the Night victory over Benoît Saint-Denis at UFC 299 in March.

How many more failed title shots can any fighter expect?

It’s why Poirier has teased retirement ahead of this fight, with one caveat — the result doesn’t necessarily matter in his decision. UFC is littered with fighters who called it a career inside the cage, such as Amanda Nunes’ surprise retirement speech after she successfully defended her 135-pound title for the final time in 2023.

“I know it’s big because of where I’m at in my career,” Poirier said. “I’m probably not going to get another shot to climb that ladder. I’m 35. How many shots can you give somebody? How many times can I climb that mountain. I’m trying not to focus on that part of it. Just take it as another fight so I don’t have any added pressure.”

More than likely, Poirier will make an “intelligent decision” with his family and American Top Team after the fight.

“It’s feelings based,” Poirier said. “Do I want to do this again? Because I love it. I’m scared to not be able to have that opportunity to do it again. But dude, how much can I give of myself to this sport?”

Poirier did hold the interim UFC lightweight championship when he beat Max Holloway in 2019. Poirier has the celebratory UFC title belt in the living room of his house. He doesn’t have the distinction of fighting as the undisputed champion, losing to Nurmagomedov in the unification bout.

“That’s a huge win,” Poirier said of holding the interim title. “It’s up there, but it’s not undisputed. What else can I do in this sport? I’m not bragging up here but I’ve ben fighting so long, that of my generation, I’ve fought the best guys at 155 pounds in the world. Some of them twice. I’ve done it all and I’ve beat a lot of them but I haven’t had the label of undisputed world champion. And that’s the reason I ever put a pair of gloves on when I was 17 years old. It’s to be the best in the world.”

He has one more shot Saturday night against the dominant Russian, five rounds, 25 minutes, his career essentially hanging in the balance.

“It’s about me accomplishing something I told my wife when I was 17 that I was going to do,” he said. “It’s not about business, it’s a personal thing that I think if I can get it done, I can look back, say I’m content, I’m proud of everything I did.”


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At 35, Dustin Poirier knows time is running out to win UFC lightweight crown (2024)
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