At UFC 281, Dustin Poirier picked up another big win by subduing Michael Chandler after a bloody back-and-forth war. The fight earned Poirier his eighth Fight of the Night bonus, equaling the category record and cementing the former interim champion as one of the most exciting fighters of his generation.
Now, with victories over All-Stars Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Conor McGregor, the question for Poirier is: what’s next? And right now, The Diamond isn’t quite sure.
“Big fights. Fun fights,” Poirier continued to tell Ariel Helwani The MMA lesson. “I don’t know, man. I completed the violence triangle – finished Gaethje, finished Eddie, finished Chandler. There are a bunch of fights that would be crazy matchups, I just don’t know the name right now.
Poirier’s win not only cemented his credibility in the excitement department, but also kept the ex-interim champion in the top five in the lightweight class. As such, the most obvious next opponent for Poirier seems to be fellow lightweight in the top five, Beneil Dariush. Dariush is currently on an eight-fight win streak in the division, and after UFC 281, The Diamond agreed that a BJJ black belt fight would make sense.
However, given some time off from fight night, Poirier seems to have had a change of heart.
“Honestly, not really,” Poirier said when asked if he wanted Dariush next. “No disrespect to Beneil. Great fighter and he got it right. He’s a very respectful guy, hard worker, and he goes in there and runs the business and I respect that. I’ll watch him fight. If we’ve just been talking about the other names I’ve battled recently, that’s not particularly exciting when I think about it.
Poirier instead seems more focused on chasing celebratory matchups with other notable opponents. Ones that, like Chandler, filled him with a sense of danger and had the potential to go down in history.
“I want those because those are going to be the fun fights, the crazy fights, potential ‘fight of the year’ fights,” said Poirier. “But that’s also the struggles that give me those butterflies in my stomach every day, or when the deal goes through and I see his name next to it. I watched [Chandler] a long time in Bellator, and I know some guys he’s hit. It’s very explosive and this danger – it’s always the unknown, no matter how well prepared you are. But when you go out there and you’ve got a guy of that caliber who can finish the fight in a second and hit you with shots, can cover distance, a lot of the things he’s doing are very dangerous.
While Dariush is undeniably dangerous, he’s not generally credited with the same level of action and interest as Chandler, Gaethje and McGregor, and with Poirier being one of the sport’s biggest stars, the former interim champion has some leeway in how he wants to proceed .
If Poirier’s entire focus is on making another run for the title, then Dariush is probably still the easiest path forward. But if he prefers more marketable fights instead, that doesn’t disqualify him from title talk. After all, as Poirier notes, Islam Makhachev winning the lightweight title creates new opportunities and routes to the belt.
“It opens doors,” he says. “It’s making new matchups and things like that, but I always knew there was a way back to the belt even if Charles had the belt. I can do anything I set my mind to. I knew I could climb the mountain again, it was just do I want to go through the killers and do I want to fight three or four more times to get myself back into position. I’m taking this one fight at a time. Not retirement talks or anything like that, but I’ve been doing this for so long and have been so high and so low that it’s just one fight at a time.