A lifetime of hard work paid off for Dustin Poirier on Saturday night as he defeated Max Holloway to become the interim UFC lightweight champion.
His reward will be an eventual showdown with undefeated Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov in a title unification bout expected for later this year.
“Yes, that’s the fight. Poirier will fight Khabib next, probably in September,” UFC president Dana White confirmed at the UFC 236 post fight press conference.
Nurmagomedov is sidelined until at least July while serving out a nine month sentence for his role in the post fight brawl that broke out after his win over Conor McGregor last October.
The reigning lightweight champion also observes Ramadan in May and June so he typically doesn’t look to fight until the end of summer or early fall.
Following the five round war between Poirier and Holloway on Saturday night, Nurmagomedov sent out a message to the new interim champion.
“I don’t agree with the judges 49-46, I got a draw,” Nurmagomedov wrote while addressing the scores that gave Poirier the win. “My respect to both fighters and Poirier’s achievement so far cannot be denied. My congratulations Dustin, see you in September.”
Regardless of how he felt about the decision, Nurmagomedov definitely appears focused on the task at hand, which will be unifying the titles later this year once he’s ready to compete again.
For his part despite going through 25-minutes of hell with Holloway at UFC 236, Poirier actually left the cage feeling rather healthy.
While he still needs to get a few things checked out, the new interim lightweight champion seems more than ready to set a date to face Nurmagomedov in September.
“I have no injuries from the fight, bumps and bruises. My hands hurt from hitting Max so much, he’s so durable. So tough. He’s a great champion,” Poirier said at the press conference.
“My left bicep hurts a little bit. I might need to get that checked out. I don’t know if I pulled something but other than that, I feel good.”
As far as the daunting task ahead of him going up against an undefeated wrecking machine like Nurmagomedov, who has only lost one round in his entire UFC career, Poirier showed no fear in the face of that challenge.
When asked why he would be the fighter to finally hand Nurmagomedov his first loss, Poirier didn’t blink before responding.
“Grit, determination, the right amount of crazy, self-belief,” Poirier said. “Everything it takes to be a champion, I have that.”