Dustin Poirier said he agreed when the UFC contacted to face Islam Makhachev at UFC 294 on short notice. That was until the shot went to Alexander Volkanovski, who got the lightweight title fight after Charles Oliveira was forced to withdraw.
Poirier said UFC Chief Business Officer Hunter Campbell didn’t outright tell him he’d be the pick. But if the promotion had chosen him, he would’ve jumped on the opportunity.
Campbell told ESPN prior to the event that Poirier not only agreed to the fight, but the former interim lightweight champion was “bugging” Campbell to know what the status of the fight was.
“That’s exactly accurate,” Poirier said in an interview with MMA Fighting while promoting Celsius Essentials. “I think it was 12 days, 11 days before the event [when I got the call]. The thing is, dude, I just landed, I have a condo in South Florida and, the day they called me, I had just landed maybe two-and-half-hours in Florida before the call [because I had] to check on my condo. I stayed there for maybe five days to get some training in with the team there because I haven’t seen them in a while.
“So I get back to my condo, I’m unpacking my bags and my phone rings. I see it’s Hunter, and I’m all jacked up on Celsius. I answer the phone, let’s go. I said, ‘What perfect timing. This is how life works.’ I just landed in Florida. My whole team is here, my coaches are in town, this happened for a reason. He asked me my weight, and I [told him I] can make the weight in 11 days, no problem. I thought that was it. He told me [to] give him one day.
“So the next day I didn’t hear back. I’m like, ‘Hey, bro, I said, yes, let’s go I got my team here, let’s book these flights. I need to get out there ASAP.’ Then he kept quiet for a while, and then all the news started breaking. But he didn’t tell me, ‘Hey, you’re the guy.’ He asked me if I would do it. I said yes, he told me to give him one day, and I guess he was waiting on Alexander to commit.
Poirier has competed once thus far in 2023, when he suffered a second-round knockout loss to Justin Gaetjhe in the “BMF” title main event at UFC 291. Asked if there was a scenario where Volkanovski was unable to take the fight, Poirier was mostly sure he would’ve been the choice.
“I’m not sure,” Poirier said. “I mean, they called me for a reason. It seems like that, but I don’t know.”
Of course, Volkanovski ended up taking the fight, and he was on the wrong end of a head-kick knockout loss to Makhachev.
Instead of being bitter of a potential lost opportunity, Poirier was more sympathetic toward Volkanovski. Poirier had a good idea what he featherweight champ was feeling that day in Abu Dhabi – he’d felt the same.
“I thought it was gonna be a lot more of a competitive fight,” Poirier explained. “It sucks, because I’ve been in that position. It sucks to see a guy go out there, but also he wasn’t fully prepared. He was taking a chance to be great, and those things happen, and they can happen [even] when you’re fully prepared. It’s happened to me.
“But to see a guy go out there in front of the world, and not get to actually compete and get into the actual fight, that sucks. But that can happen to anyone. That’s fighting, and that’s why we love it.”