With just a few days to go for UFC 242, Dustin Poirier remains confident that he will shock the world and defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov.
If that is the case, the question turns to who Poirier would defend his new title against. Depending on how this Saturday goes, it could be a rematch against Nurmagomedov. But if that’s not the case, there’s only one true next contender and that’s Tony Ferguson.
“El Cucuy” is on a 12-fight winning streak and was unfairly stripped of his interim title last year when he was injured during a media event. Other circumstances prevented him from facing Nurmagomedov already, but for Poirier, it is imperative that Ferguson gets the next title shot.
“Tony hasn’t lost in years,” Poirier said in an interview with BT Sport. “Six, seven years, maybe longer. Tony’s the next guy. If we’re keeping this a sporting event, we’re keeping this a sport and respecting rankings and respecting people’s work that they’ve put in, there’s no question about it — Tony’s next.”
The reason why it’s not set in stone is because of Conor McGregor.
The Irishman last competed at UFC 229 last year when he suffered a fourth-round submission defeat to Nurmagomedov. Although his last win came all the way back in November 2016, there’s always a possibility McGregor gets the next crack at the title simply because of how big a star he is. For now, he’s in the headlines for different reasons, most recently after footage from April showed him striking a man at a pub in Ireland.
For now, Poirier hopes his old foe gets things together.
“I don’t like to speak about other people, especially when they’re not around,” Poirier added when asked about McGregor. “I hope he gets himself together. He went from apologizing to absolutely no one to absolutely everyone. Hopefully, he pulls it together.”
“The Diamond” was knocked out by McGregor when they met in a featherweight matchup back in 2014. Since then, Poirier has won 9 of his next 11 outings and matured as a fighter. Although the buildup to the McGregor fight was heated, Poirier took away some positives, especially ahead of this weekend.
“In the lead up to the Conor fight, I couldn’t post a picture online,” Poirier explained. “His fans went crazy. Attacking my wife, online of course. Just crazy non-stop threats, people saying you suck. At that time in my career, I was reading stuff and not taking it to heart, but thinking about it.
“That helped me in the future because now I don’t care about that stuff. In this fight with Khabib, obviously, he has a lot of Russian fans. It’s like that. Anything that I post online, the first hundred posts are going to be people talking crap about me losing to Khabib. It kind of made me immune to that stuff.”
UFC 242 streams exclusively on ESPN+ in the United States at a special time of 2 pm ET on Saturday.