UFC's No. 7-ranked pound-for-pound fighter Dustin Poirier discusses his upcoming rematch versus Conor McGregor at UFC 257, gives his thoughts on the UFC's "stacked" lightweight division and what could be on the horizon if he gets his revenge against "The Notorious."
KEVIN IOLE: Hey, everybody. Welcome to Yahoo Sports. I am Kevin Iole. And my next guest is one of the good guys. And MMA does a lot of great work for charity. Also, one of the best fighters the UFC has ever had.
On January 23 in Abu Dhabi, he is going to be fighting the notorious Conor McGregor in the main event of UFC 257. My guest, Dustin Poirier. Dustin, how are you, my friend?
DUSTIN POIRIER: Doing good, man. How are you?
KEVIN IOLE: I am doing awesome. Rematch of a-- of fascinating fight from 2014. You were the highest ranked fighter at that point. You were ranked number five, Conor. I believe it was ranked number nine. Conor won that fight by knockout. A lot has changed. Both a up a weight class now. What do you think the biggest difference in you is compared to the younger Dustin of six years ago?
DUSTIN POIRIER: I think a more-- more mature, more skilled, more battle tested, more patient. There's a lot-- there's a lot that's changed.
KEVIN IOLE: You know, did that-- did that fight prompt any changes? Like, did that fight make you better? When you went back and looked at it, was there anything that you added? You said, OK, maybe I didn't handle this well or I didn't do that well that you changed and subsequently became better as a result of that specific fight?
DUSTIN POIRIER: I think every fight, win or loss, you have an opportunity to get better and to reassess what's going on. And, yeah, definitely in that fight I felt like I needed to make an adjustment with my emotions in the way I lead into these fights.
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, that-- I mean, that was something-- I guess there was a lot of trash talking going on in the thing. When you're a young guy, you let that get to you. Was that something that, you know, like, you know, that you start thinking about the finish as opposed to the process of the fight?
DUSTIN POIRIER: Yeah, I just got too emotional, and I'm an emotional guy. You know, I wear my heart on my sleeve. And it showed in that fight. I listen to everything that Conor said and thought about it too much. I listened to the critics. And I just, over the course of my career realized that what really matters is my preparation and my readiness and mindset to go in there.
KEVIN IOLE: Right. You know, I mean, it's really interesting. As many great fighters as you beat, you're in, you know, one of the top divisions, I mean. Let's just talk about that, first of all, how difficult it is to get to the top of the lightweight division.
I mean, you look at the killers in that division. And so many-- you know, and now, Charles Oliveira's popped up there. I mean, you know, in your opinion, do you think 155 is the best division in the sport?
DUSTIN POIRIER: Oh, right now in the current landscape of mixed martial arts, the UFC 155-pound division is hands down the toughest and most talent stacked division.
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, I mean, if-- when you look at it, you probably go, what, 10 deep with guys that legitimately could win the championship. Would you agree with that-- at least 8 or 10 deep?
DUSTIN POIRIER: You can look at the whole top 10. And there's guys outside of the top 10 who are killers as well.
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah. And, I mean, you know what. I guess the thing that from you having been around and made a number of runs at the top, that's something that you learned, right, that, hey, you know, there's a lot of guys out there that are good. And it's the mental-- the mental difference that maybe makes a difference in a lot of these fights, isn't it?
DUSTIN POIRIER: It's a huge part of it. I mean, and it's a part that I, you know, neglected for years. But fighting is as much mental as it is physical. You have to be prepared for the naysayers along the way. You have to be prepared for the-- the things that creep into your mind or in training camp that creep into your mind during fight week. You know, this is a tough task. Fighting is hard-- very stressful.
KEVIN IOLE: Dustin, you know, I would imagine it's hard against anybody. But against somebody who's like McGregor who not only talks, but he has such a megaphone, right? He has that bully pulpit. Everybody wants to talk to him. And his words get magnified. You know, does that make it even worse against somebody like him, because, you know, it's like everywhere you go?
You know, if you're fighting somebody else in the division, maybe it's not as much. But you fight Conor McGregor and the whole-- you know the whole world's watching. And everything-- every little thing he does is getting attention. Does that make it a little tougher and you have to be that much stronger to fight him?
DUSTIN POIRIER: You probably do. But I feel like I've made those adjustments. At this point in my career, it's not phasing me. But you're correct about whatever he says, there's going to be a headline about it. You're going to know.
Even though you're not following everything or you're trying not to follow everything the guy is talking about, you're going to see it somewhere on the media-- on a MMA media headline. Or you're going to see someone talking about it or hear someone talking about it just because, like you said, the megaphone that he has and the star power that he has.
But that comes along with more so Conor McGregor just because of the guy and the athlete and star that he's become. But any huge fight, any main event-- pay per view or title fight-- those are the things that come along with it-- a lot of media, a lot of interviews, a lot of opinions. And like I said, I just know what matters.
KEVIN IOLE: You know, there's a thought of, Conor's, hey, a striker. He's got great stand up and everything. But, you know, he's not great on the ground. But, yet, you know, you don't see a ton of guys just you taking him to the ground. You know, how do you assess Conor McGregor at this stage of his career? Is he a different fighter, you know, stylistically at all from when you fought him back in 2014?
DUSTIN POIRIER: He's got to be better, or he wasted six years. I expect him to be a lot better. And, I mean, we can't just throw away or disregard his grappling. I'm sure the guy is very skilled in grappling, in wrestling, in Jiu-Jitsu. I'm expecting the best out of-- and the toughest out of every scenario, every exchange.
You know, I can't-- I would be doing myself a disservice by looking past those things or thinking that he's not skilled somewhere. I'm expecting to fight a very well-rounded fighter.
KEVIN IOLE: You know, one of the things that I always love at hearing-- you hear UFC fighters more than boxers say that I want to get in a brawl and I want to have this. And I saw a comment attributed to you the other day where it was something to the effect of, you know, I want to be bloody and swollen and sweaty and all this. And I hope he's ready for that-- that aspect too?
Can you explain sort of what you mean by that because, I mean, a lot of people would say, well, the object of fighting is to hit and not get hit. You know, I think I understand what you mean. But can you kind of explain your thought process when you make those kind of comments?
DUSTIN POIRIER: Yeah, I want the fight to be uncomfortable for both of us. I want us both to have to dig down and show grit and determination and will. That's what I want. I want this to be a test of-- of want because I want this, Man. And I'm sure he does as well. But I want to prove I want it more. That's-- that's just it.
KEVIN IOLE: You know, I asked you this before you fought Dan Hooker. And I think it's interesting now. We talked about the depth and the division. You win this fight and you're right there back-- back at the championship level.
I know you can't think of that. You can't think of anything else but Conor McGregor. But you do know that's out there. Is that a motivation in training camp, as you're getting ready to fight him knowing that everything in your life that you have worked for will come true if you win this fight?
DUSTIN POIRIER: Very motivating, you know-- very motivating. Not only the what comes along with beating a guy like Conor McGregor, but knowing that with a win, my next fight will be a title fight is very motivating.
KEVIN IOLE: And then, lastly, you know, let's just end at this. You held a championship before. You know, you beat a really good fighter in Max Holloway to win a championship. What, you know-- they say the toughest fight is to defend the championship, right? What did you learn in your first title reign that you think will help you in a potential subsequent title reign?
DUSTIN POIRIER: That-- you know, at that level, every mistake is detrimental. You know, you're fighting the-- these caliber of guys. You make one mistake-- it's over. So I learned that I need to be in the moment every second of those 25 minutes. You know, you lose focus for one second, it's a wrap. And, you know, there's no room for error in these type of fights.
KEVIN IOLE: No doubt. Before we let you get out of here, I know you do a lot of great charitable work. It's been talked about a lot, The Good Fight Foundation. What's going on? Is Conor still planning to contribute to-- to your foundation? And what is the charity that you're going to benefit off of this fight?
DUSTIN POIRIER: Will be-- I hope he does. He said he would, so we'll see. I think he's a man of his word and-- but first things first. We got to scrap. But The Good Fight Foundation has teamed up with Boys & Girls Club of Acadiana in Louisiana.
We're going to be working with their six locations to provide transportation for the rest of this year, 2021, to all six locations to and from for the children. And also, we want to provide all six locations with tutors to help bridge the gap with the learning curve that's going on right now associated with the pandemic and the situation children are in at home learning.
You know, it's not an easy thing, especially it's tough on the children, and it's tough on the parents. These single parents out there who are at work and the child is home, you know, we're just trying to, like I said, bridge the gap and take a little bit of weight off the parents by giving transportation to these children, you know, because there was a lot of-- they'll run into a lot of problems where parents would be able to pick the children up at the clubs after or drop them off, but they couldn't do both. And so the kid wouldn't go at all.
And, you know, that's very important to be around peers and to be around someone like a tutor who can help you in a time like this where you're at home learning and you have no one to really explain things and answer questions that you have. So I'm proud. The Good Fight Foundation is happy and excited to team up with the Boys Girls Club,
KEVIN IOLE: Well, thanks for everything you do, Dustin. You do great work. And a lot of people have benefited from what you do. Thanks so much. Good luck to you at USC 257 on January 23. Thanks for joining me-- appreciate it.