Dustin Poirier has dreamed of this moment since the first day he started fighting.
From his earliest days competing in mixed martial arts, Poirier has always wanted to become a UFC champion and he is now just days away from that opportunity when he faces Max Holloway in the main event at UFC 236 from Atlanta.
Of course, Poirier and Holloway are actually competing for the interim lightweight title because reigning 155-pound champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is suspended until at least July with plans to sit out until September after observing the Muslim holiday of Ramadan this summer.
While the mission to become the undisputed champion won’t be completed until later this year, Poirier says no amount of negativity spewed in his direction will lessen the excitement of finally achieving his goal to grasp UFC gold in his hands.
“It’s here and it’s happening,” Poirier said when speaking to MMAWeekly ahead of UFC 236 on Saturday night. “I couldn’t be more happy. I know people are saying it’s an interim title and ‘where’s Tony [Ferguson]?’ all this and that.
“People are going to say negative stuff no matter what you do. Somebody could watch you walk on water and say you can’t swim, that’s why you’re doing it. People want to act negative. People want to say s—t like that.”
Because of all the hard work and sacrifice that he’s made for more than a decade, Poirier isn’t going to allow anybody to diminish his achievement on Saturday night.
Yes, Poirier fully understands that to become the undisputed champion he still has to go through Nurmagomedov later this year but that still doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy an interim title win against Holloway this weekend.
That’s why he’s visualized that moment in his head a thousand times over when UFC president Dana White will wrap the title around his waist as he hears Bruce Buffer shouts ‘and new’ at the end of the fight.
The work isn’t done just because he wins an interim title but Poirier promises he’s going to feel like the king of the world in the aftermath of UFC 236.
“To me, April 13, when I’m in the Octagon and Dana [White] puts the belt on me, this is going to be 12 years of sacrifice, 12 years of clawing back, 12 years of proving people wrong,” Poirier said. “So much work has been done and so much work still has to be done before this goal is a reality but this isn’t an interim title to me.
“When that gold touches my skin, that’s real to me, I am a world champion.”