The fight game — and the world — needs more people like Dustin Poirier

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Dustin Poirier prepares to fight Eddie Alvarez at Scotiabank Saddledome on July 28, 2018 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Getty Images)
Dustin Poirier prepares to fight Eddie Alvarez at Scotiabank Saddledome on July 28, 2018 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Getty Images)

Dustin Poirier gained plenty of notoriety early in his UFC career from the 2011 release of the documentary film, “Fightville,” which detailed the mixed martial arts scene in Louisiana, where he got his start.

He was a young and hopeful fighter on the rise during the film, but now stands as one of the best and most accomplished fighters in the world.

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If a sequel were to be done featuring Poirier now, it would undoubtedly have to be called, “Super Fightville,” because it seems that’s all he takes part in these days.

On Saturday, the biggest superfight of an extraordinary career will take place at State Farm Arena in Atlanta in the main event of UFC 236, when he meets featherweight champion Max Holloway for the interim lightweight championship.

Poirier is 30, at the peak of his powers and entering the bout with Holloway on a three-fight winning streak, two of which were over ex-UFC lightweight champions.

He’s the kind of guy, both inside and outside the cage, who helped grow the UFC into a multi-billion dollar business.

Not counting his 2017 no-contest with Eddie Alvarez which ended because Alvarez struck him with illegal knees, Poirier has won a post-fight bonus each of his last four times out.

He got a Performance of the Night bonus for his knockout in his rematch with Alvarez his last time out, on July 28. He was in the Fight of the Night in the three bouts before that, with Justin Gaethje on April 14, 2018; with Anthony Pettis on Nov. 11, 2017; and with Jim Miller on Feb. 11, 2017.

In all, he’s won Fight of the Night five times, Performance of the Night three times and Submission of the Night once.

Dustin Poirier the humanitarian

But he’s not just a brawler. He’s also a thoughtful, reasoned man who is making an impact in his hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana. Starting at UFC 211, Poirier has auctioned off his UFC fight kits to raise money for different charities.

This time around, Poirier and his wife, Jolie, through their Good Fight Foundation, are auctioning his fight kit to build a playground for disabled children in Lafayette. That was the dream of a Lafayette boy named Aaron Hill, who died of a rare brain disease before the playground could be built.

The Good Fight Foundation is working with Poirier to make the playground a reality.

This is the kind of representative that the fight game — the world — needs more of, one who sees beyond his or her own short-term interests to try to make a difference in the lives of others.

“Aaron had this dream and we’re going to make sure that dream comes true, even though he didn’t live to see it,” Poirier said.

He’ll have a much larger pedestal from which to work were he to defeat Holloway, one of the UFC’s most gifted fighters and burgeoning stars.

Poirier couldn’t say yes fast enough to Holloway fight

The fight came out of the blue for Poirier, who became so frustrated by his inactivity that he asked the UFC for his release. He was supposed to fight Nate Diaz at UFC 230 in November, but was injured and had to withdraw. When he was healthy, there were no fights to be made for him.

Other fighters were running into issues — Khabib Nurmagomedov was suspendedFerguson had mental health issues and Alvarez left the UFC, among other things — and Poirier was frustrated by sitting out.

UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway (L) and Dustin Poirier during the UFC 236 press conference at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on March 1, 2019. (Getty Images)
UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway (L) and Dustin Poirier during the UFC 236 press conference at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on March 1, 2019. (Getty Images)

He was vocal in his pleas on Twitter for a fight, and in frustration asked for his release. Then, one day, his manager, Robert Roveta, called him.

It was, to say the least, a life-changing chat.

“My manager called me with the [Holloway] fight and I was really surprised by the name,” Poirier said. “I knew I was close to a title shot and it was a relief when he told me it would be for the belt. But I thought it was going to be Tony Ferguson and I was kind of surprised that it was Max.”

He couldn’t say yes fast enough. He’s a fighter who loves to compete and doesn’t like extended breaks. And when he was ready and healthy enough to go and still no fights were forthcoming, it was a difficult time.

He said the fact that it was through no fault of his that he was sidelined made it especially tough.

“I felt like I was being put on the shelf and stalled because of other guys’ actions,” Poirier said. “I was upset at the whole lightweight scene. All of the top guys were either suspended or had other things going on, and I felt like I was being punished because of other people’s actions.”

But he’s back now, and promises to be an active champion if he wins the belt. He’s not going to put the title in mothballs and fight once or twice a year. He’s going to make it available to all comers.

First, though, comes beating Holloway which he knows won’t be easy.

“There are no easy fights in the UFC, but when you get to the top of the division, every fight there is a dogfight,” Poirier said. “But I think I’ve shown over my career what I can do and that I can go into these wars and come out smiling on the other side.”

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