Dustin Poirier, known for Fight of the Night greatness, still in search of UFC belt

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Yahoo Sports

Dustin Poirier has a Fight of the Night streak, though it’s kind of like Roger Maris’ home run record in 1961. It comes with an asterisk.

Poirier won Fight of the Night at UFC 208 on Feb. 11, 2017, against Jim Miller; on Nov. 11, 2017, at a Fight Night card against Anthony Pettis and again on April 18 at a Fight Night show in Glendale, Arizona, against the always-entertaining Justin Gaethje.

The reason for the asterisk, though, is that his May 13, 2017, bout with Eddie Alvarez at UFC 211 in Dallas was ruled a no contest and stopped in the second round when Alvarez hit Poirier with a pair of illegal knees.

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While the heavyweight battle between Chase Sherman and Rashad Coulter, which won Fight of the Night that evening, was indeed an epic battle, it seems hard-pressed to believe Alvarez-Poirier wouldn’t have won had it gone to its logical conclusion.

They’ll have another crack at it on Saturday when they rematch at UFC on Fox 30 in Calgary in what on paper looks like the year’s best card.

But while there are a slew of great matches booked for Calgary, it’s hard to imagine one of them bests Alvarez-Poirier if the bout simply goes to the conclusion, given the way the two fight. In his UFC career, Poirier has had five Fight of the Night bonuses to go along with two Performance of the Nights and a Submission of the Night (over Max Holloway).

Alvarez has had a Fight of the Night and a Performance of the Night in his seven UFC outings and of course would have had another one were it not for the controversial finish.

Poirier is becoming one of the must-see fighters in the UFC, but admits those kinds of bouts take their toll.

“It’s not fun the days after, I can tell you that,” Poirier said. “But it’s definitely worth it. I don’t go in there looking to get these type of fights. They just happen.”

The soreness and the pain will be more than worth it if Poirier gets past Alvarez, because it will put him in position to challenge Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight belt.

The UFC is targeting a Nurmagomedov-Conor McGregor fight for later in the year, but more will be known after Thursday when McGregor appears in court in Brooklyn to answer for his actions in April. He threw a hand truck through the window of a bus and injured several fighters, including Ray Borg and Michael Chiesa.

If McGregor doesn’t fight, Nurmagomedov would like to take on ex-middleweight and welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. That seems unlikely, making the Alvarez-Poirier winner the front-runner should McGregor, for whatever reason, not fight again this year.

“I really feel in my heart that if I go out there and beat Eddie Alvarez, I’m going to get a title shot,” Poirier said.

Dustin Poirier, right, first fought Eddie Alvarez at UFC 211. The fight was ruled a no contest after illegal knees were used. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Dustin Poirier, right, first fought Eddie Alvarez at UFC 211. The fight was ruled a no contest after illegal knees were used. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Poirier has been in the cage with a who’s who of the greatest featherweights and lightweights of the last decade. He’s 23-5 overall and 15-4 with the no-contest in the UFC.

As he has matured, he’s not so eager to get the fight done and that has in turn enabled him to be more successful. He fights at an incredibly frenetic pace, but he hasn’t fought at a pace that is too much for him like he did early in his career when he was trying to force things to happen.

“I’m just more patient,” Poirier said. “I’m a father now and I’ve taken my knocks and learned hard [lessons] through this sport of mixed martial arts. I was a kid when I came into Zuffa. I was 21 maybe and I had six pro fights. Now here I am, going into my 30th pro fight and all of them having been against high-level competition. I learned through the whole process and gotten better. I’ve refined my skills, learned from my mistakes, learned from my victories and that’s who I am now.”

Who he is is an incredible ambassador for the sport who is tirelessly working on behalf of charities, particularly in his home state of Louisiana. Look at his Twitter page and it’s tough to determine if he’s a pro fighter or a charitable fundraiser.

He runs “The Good Fight Foundation,” which is currently raising funds for local schools, and he is being honored next month by the American Cancer Society with its “Spirit of Hope” award.

“I’m just trying to help out my people in my local community,” Poirier said. “That’s where most of the charity has been done so far. I’m going to go out there and fight regardless. I’ll fight my ass off and put it all on the line, but if I can change some other people’s lives beside my family’s by doing that, I’d love to use this platform to things that need the attention.”

He’s auctioned off his fight gear after the bout, and given the type of match it promises to be with Alvarez, that should be a hot commodity.

Poirier is himself a hot commodity, both as a fighter and as a man. It’s easy to go out and take in all the glory as a professional athlete. But pro athletes have precious little private time and when they give what little time they have to charity, it provides an insight into the person.

Poirier will undoubtedly receive a huge ovation when he’s introduced in the cage Saturday by the legendary Bruce Buffer. Much of that will be as a result of his amazing fights. Some, one would like to believe, though, will be fans saying thanks for all the things Poirier has done to make the world a better place to live.

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