COCONUT CREEK, Fla. – Dustin Poirier doesn’t hesitate when predicting how his UFC 242 fight will end.
UFC interim lightweight champion Poirier (25-5 MMA, 17-4 UFC) believes he will not only become the first man to beat UFC lightweight titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0 MMA, 11-0 UFC) — he’ll do it inside the distance.
The only sliver of doubt in Poirier’s mind is whether it will be a KO/TKO or a submission.
“I keep going back and forth,” Poirier told MMA Junkie on Thursday. “I feel like I can submit Khabib, but feel like I’m going to stop him. I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I’m either going to knock him out or I’m going to submit him. I’m going to finish Khabib Nurmagomedov.”
The Louisianan talked about what it meant for him to finally be one win away from a UFC title. A veteran of 30 professional fights, Poirier believes the accumulation of lessons he’s compiled has elevated him to the next level.
“It’s putting everything together, trying to be the best fighter (and) the best person that I can be,” Poirier said. “Walking into the octagon Sept. 7, I know I need to be at my best. It’s going to take all of me. It’s going to take all of this preparation done the right way to beat Khabib. I understand that.
“I’m going to do something that’s never been done and I’m treating it that way. This is history. I’m about to make history.”
Nurmagomedov’s strong wrestling base and signature ground-and-pound attack is well-documented. Opponents struggle to escape when the Russian is on top of them. When Nurmagomedov’s strikes start raining down, it’s seemingly impossible for fighters to weather the storm.
Though he feels confident in his takedown defense, Porier has been focused on Nurmagomedov’s heavy top game for this camp. When it’s time to finally implement what he’s drilled, Poirier wants to focus more on his own aggression than whatever Nurmagomedov might bring.
“Of course, it’s a huge danger,” Poirier said of Nurmagomedov’s top game. “I don’t want this guy to get on top of me and start pulling away with rounds. We only have five of them. If you let a guy lay on you for three, you need a finish. That’s not what I’m trying to do in there.”
“I’m not worried about his takedowns so much. I need to hurt this guy. That’s a huge part of this training camp. Putting myself in good positions to win the rounds and win the fight. Staying off the fence. Getting up off the ground. But, at the same time, I need to do what I do.”
In a day and age of money fights and super fights, Poirier is trying his best to focus on the task at hand. The interim champ wants to unify the two lightweight straps before he starts thinking of names to call out, or what his next move is going to be.
“I’d love to leave a great legacy, but at the end of the day, we fight for money as well,” Poirier said. “I can’t fight forever. It just seems a long way to look with what’s stacked against me right now. I don’t want to disrespect what’s ahead of me. I want to focus on that. Once I stop Khabib and raise this belt up in the air unified, then we’ll talk about the future.”
Poirier, 30, not lost since Michael Johnson knocked him out in Sept. 2016. Since the defeat, Poirier has gone 5-0 with one no contest. After finishing three straight opponents in Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, and Eddie Alvarez, Poirier defeated featherweight champ Max Holloway by unanimous decision at UFC 236 in April to earn the interim strap.
“I have the opportunity to make history and do something that’s never been done,” Poirier said. “I’m embracing that … I’m just excited that I put myself in this position and that I have an opportunity to show the world how great I am on the biggest scale possible and unify these belts. Make history – that’s what this is about.”
UFC 242 takes place Sept. 7 at The Arena at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+.