ABU DHABI – Dustin Poirier is willing to dig deep to emerge victorious from the UFC 257 headliner, and he’s not sure Conor McGregor has the same in him.
Poirier (26-6 MMA, 18-5 UFC) is set to rematch McGregor (22-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) in Saturday’s lightweight main event at Etihad Arena on in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+.
It’s a fight that has been a long time coming for “The Diamond,” and a chance to get back one of his most notable career defeats after losing the first encounter by first-round TKO at UFC 178 in September 2014.
Despite the result of the first fight, Poirier does not have an appetite for revenge, he said. Instead, he’s determined to reap the benefits of thriving in a big time moment.
“It’s not about revenge and payback,” Poirier told MMA Junkie on Monday. “It’s about prosperity, about putting my family in position to be successful. It’s about raising awareness to (The Good Fight) Foundation and helping bring awareness to people in need. It’s a lot of things. It’s about being the world champion. It’s about getting closer to that title. But it’s not about revenge. It’s about work and grind. That’s what it’s about: success.”
In order for Poirier to find that success, he knows he must fight up to his potential inside the octagon. McGregor predicted he would win the fight by knockout in the first 60 seconds, but even without that, Poirier is aware that exercising caution early on is an important factor.
“When we’re dry early, he has all the pop and the spring still in his step,” Poirier said. “(He’s) very dangerous. Good thing it’s a 25-minute fight, and I feel like I’ve matured and developed my skills enough to be in the right moments and take the right chances and not put myself in harm’s way right off the bat.”
If Poirier can avoid the early harm, he thinks the odds of victory grow significantly in his favor. His head coach, Mike Brown of American Top Team, told MMA Junkie it’s no secret McGregor has a “weakness in conditioning” and that it would be wise to try to exploit that.
From all pre-fight images, McGregor appears to be in top shape coming into UFC 257. Poirier said he’s prepared for his opponent to have shored up the weaknesses that have come out in past fights, but still sees his conditioning as a major advantage.
“I feel like the better fighter wins in the longer fights,” Poirier said. “Anybody can get hurt early or submitted early in a fight. The more a fight blossoms and unfolds, the better fighter usually rises up and I just want to show that I’m the better fighter. … Those later rounds, I get going. I’m sure Conor’s made adjustments. He has slowed down in the later rounds, but I think the longer this fight goes, the better it plays out for me.”
Should the fight enter the third, fourth and fifth rounds, Poirier said he anticipates his determination to be the difference maker. He knows the level of heart he possesses, and he questions whether McGregor has the same in him.
“Of course, I would love to go in there and get it over with early (and) not take unnecessary damage,” Poirier said. “But I just think a fight that plays into will and want and a position where we have to dig down and suffer, I think I can suffer more.
The future of the lightweight division is uncertain going into a critical fight between Poirier and McGregor. Khabib Nurmagomedov’s choice to retire or continue fighting will play a role in what unfolds going forward, but Poirier said none of that matters unless he gets his hand raised.
“The plan is to beat Conor McGregor by any means necessary: Blood and guts and fight for the world title again.”