Dustin Poirier explains taking UFC 299 co-main event vs. Benoit Saint-Denis, why it’s five rounds

Dustin Poirier was cageside as he watched Benoit Saint-Denis nearly decapitate Matt Frevola with a brutal head kick last November at UFC 295.

Admittedly, Poirier (29-8 MMA, 22-8 UFC) was impressed, but he still saw distance between his path and Saint-Denis’ in the immediate future.

“In my head, I was sitting there in the chair cageside like, ‘No way that’s happening. This guy has some work to do,’ Poirier said Monday on “The MMA Hour.”

Fast forward four months, and Poirier is aligned for a highly anticipated five-round March 9 showdown with Saint-Denis (13-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) at UFC 299 in Miami. The matchmaking has fans excited, but surprised, as Poirier had repeatedly stated in over the past few months that he really only wanted to come back to fight if the opponent was a household name or the fight was extra meaningful.

So what changed?

“In my head, I was kind of like, ‘Maybe a legacy fight. Maybe an RDA. Maybe another former champion. I don’t know, just something,'” Poirier said. “I thought the offer in the UFC would be something more like that. I needed something to get me up in the morning. I respect this sport, and I honor this sport, and I’m 35 years old now. This guy is a young, hungry lion who is on a streak. I think he finished five fights in a row. Somebody gave me my shot to crack in, so I respect the game. That’s what I’m doing. Let’s see if I still (can do it). March 9, buy the pay-per-view and we’ll see. We’ll find out.”

The bout isn’t for a title and isn’t a headliner, yet it’s five rounds – an increasing yet inconsistent trend for some events’ supporting acts.

Poirier said the championship rounds weren’t offered, but he asked for them and got what he wanted.

“You know that meme with the dog looking in the mirror and he’s like me checking if I still got that dog in me,” Poirier said. “Five rounds, March 9. … I told them, ‘I’ll fight the guy but let’s do it five rounds.’ … Because I feel like the better fighter, unless something happens early, the better fighter wins over five rounds.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 299.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie