Dustin Poirier has been here before, but it’s a place he never intended to visit again.
Following a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov for the undisputed lightweight title in 2019, Poirier battled his way back to the top of the division only to fall to Charles Oliveira in eerily similar circumstances on Saturday night at UFC 269.
Addressing the loss, Poirier was battling back his emotions while trying to reconcile a second loss in his attempt to become a world champion.
“It sucks,” Poirier said at the UFC 269 post-fight press conference. “Worked hard to get back here to fight for another world title. Got choked out again. I’m just heartbroken really.”
In a fight where he was a heavy favorite picked to win, Poirier took control early with the kind of punishing offensive output that has finished many top ranked fighters over the years.
Despite his best efforts, Oliveira refused to go away as he kept coming back at Poirier until finally sinking in a standing rear-naked choke to get the finish in the third round.
Poirier wasn’t surprised by Oliveira by any means but it still doesn’t take away the sting of defeat.
“Obviously, I knew his jiu-jitsu was the best, some of the best, the most submissions in UFC history coming into this fight,” Poirier said. “That’s kind of the reason I didn’t go crazy trying to sweep and get up that second round. Cause like I said leading this, I’d rather lose the round than give my back and lose the fight trying to scramble back up. But he ended up getting to my back regardless. The guy’s good. He’s the champ.
“Same thing with Khabib. It’s such a small room for error in these kinds of fights. I felt good. After the first round sitting on my stool, going into the second, I was drinking water and thinking I’m going to be the world champion tonight. Such a crazy thing what we do.”
There was a moment during a scramble in the fight when Oliveira was working for a takedown, and it appeared he was able to hold on after grabbing inside Poirier’s glove to get a grip, which is an illegal maneuver.
For his part, Poirier didn’t recognize if that’s what Oliveira was doing at the time, although his head coach asked him about that particular sequence after the fight was over.
“Mike Brown was asking me when we got back to the locker room why I didn’t just slide my arm out,” Poirier said. “I don’t remember the finger in the gloves, but I was trying to pull my arm out, and it felt like it was in there good.
“But Mike did ask me in the locker room after why I didn’t just pull my arm out. I tried but I don’t know if his fingers were in my glove or not. I didn’t feel it.”
With this loss, Poirier falls to 0-2 in his last two title fights, but by no means does this eliminate him from returning for another opportunity to compete for a UFC championship.
The real question becomes how much Poirier wants it and he’s not ready to answer that until he has some time to reflect on this setback before determining what comes next for him.
“I can do anything I put my mind to,” Poirier said. “I can fight for another belt. I can go on another streak. I can claw and climb and get back to wherever I want to be. It’s just do I want to? That’s the question I have to look in the mirror and answer.
“Do I want to do it again? Do I want to go down that road again? That answer will come in the next couple of days, next couple weeks. Just need to let this pass and see what’s next for me. But if it’s in my heart and that’s what I want to do, I’ll be here again fighting for another world title.”
While this certainly wasn’t the outcome that he wanted, Poirier can’t look back at 2021 as if the entire year was a waste, especially after he picked up two wins over Conor McGregor as well as the work he continued to do through his Good Fight Foundation charity.
That still doesn’t make this loss sting any less, but Poirier promises he will eventually move forward.
“I don’t even want to think about who or what’s next,” Poirier said. “It’s been a crazy year for me. Three big fights. I just want to go home with my family. I’m healthy, they’re healthy. Like I said, I’m not a stranger to this kind of position. Nobody wants to be used to losing but I’m just used to learning. It is what it is. That’s the fight game.
“Trying not to sit up here at another press conference and cry in front of you guys but I’m going to continue to do what I do — be a father, try to be a beacon of light, keep grinding.”