Dustin Poirier may have won the biggest fight of his career versus Justin Gaethje last Saturday, but he’s aiming for a much higher goal.
‘The Diamond’ called out UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov after his fourth-round stoppage of a tough-as-nails Gaethje in Glendale, Arizona, and there’s little doubt that he’s certainly in that mix after a four-fight unbeaten streak including wins over Gaethje, Anthony Pettis, and Jim Miller.
The top of the storied UFC 155-pound arena is quite a mess at the current time, as Nurmagomedov, recently stripped champ Conor McGregor, and recently stripped interim champ Tony Ferguson are still most likely entwined in a strange three-part rivalry without a clear end in sight.
So that could leave Poirier out in the cold requiring at least another big win to truly cement a title shot, and the clear pick for that bout is rival former champion Eddie Alvarez, with whom he fought to a no-contest in an all-out brawl at UFC 211 and the only blemish during his recent run. Many believed Poirier was well on his way to finishing the former champion when he was hit with a fight-changing illegal knee on the mat that referee Herb Dean deemed inadvertent, thus ruling the bout a no-contest.
Apparently, Poirier’s all for it, but the so-called ‘Underground King’ has allegedly turned the fight down several times. Poirier appeared on today’s episode of The MMA Hour to reveal that they were even offered the fight at this month’s UFC 223 as a precaution for Khabib or Ferguson pulling out, which could have earned Alvarez a title shot:
“Me and Eddie were offered a rematch on that Brooklyn show that Tony and Khabib were on,” Poirier said. “And my management told me that pretty much they’re probably trying to book this fight because if they fall out, one of you are going to replace them. I accepted the fight. Eddie turned it down. This was months ago. We could have been on that card, Eddie’s ranked higher than me, he probably would have fought for the belt a couple weekends ago.”
‘The Diamond’ said that in total, Alvarez had turned down the rematch five times:
“It was offered a bunch of times, man,” Poirier said. “There were a bunch of cards that they offered the fight on. I accepted every time they offered it, Eddie turned it down every time. I think it was five times.”
Based on both fighters’ propensity for all-out violence, the Poirier vs. Alvarez rematch is sort of a clear booking while the jumbled title picture gets figured out in the lightweight division.
The beef behind the rivalry is real, and Poirier admitted he is still a little miffed by how Alvarez responded to the illegal knee at UFC 211. In his opinion, his reaction was disrespectful because his strike was simply against the rules. Looking to right that wrong, Poirier admitted Alvarez was the next opponent on his radar if he didn’t get his coveted title shot:
“The things that he said after our fight, just the way he acted, I tried to stand up for the man and tell the crowd stop booing him not a dirty fighter, have some respect for the man,” Poirier said. “… Just way he acted after that. Saying that I was trying to milk the knee, he tweeted me “are you finally off your stool yet’ just all kinds of stuff like that that was very disrespectful. This isn’t a bar fight. You don’t knee somebody in the head and expect the guy to just keep going like it didn’t hurt. He got me pretty good with that knee, and it could have changed the outcome of fight. This is a sport. There has to be some line drawn.
“If I do not get the title shot next, it’s going to be Eddie.”
So while the eyes may be on Nurmagomedov, McGregor, and the title, perhaps the most entertaining fight in the oft-featured, deeply talented lightweight division is Poirier vs. Alvarez II.
The weight class has a ton of momentum after UFC 223, UFC on FOX 29, and this weekend’s Edson Barboza vs. Kevin Lee-headlined UFC Fight Night 128 from Atlantic City, New Jersey, so booking this hard-hitting rematch will keep that rolling well into the summer.