Two Most Experienced Fighters Will Fight For Title At UFC 269
Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira will find out who deserves to be the jungle king after Khabib Nurmagomedov retired.
Oliveira will make his first defense of his lightweight title against Poirier in the main event of UFC 269 on December 11 at T-Mobile Arena.
“I’ve put in a lot of effort to get here,” Oliveira, a Brazilian native, said at a press conference after defeating Michael Chandler for the title earlier this year.
“He’s a guy who’s picked himself up off the canvas time and time again, fought through adversity, two weight classes, been in the UFC a decade,” Poirier said of Oliveira in a news conference over the summer. “He’s not just a guy with the belt. He’s earned every ounce of gold he has around his waist, and I respect guys like that.
Oliveira defeated Chandler for the vacated title fight, but nobody considers him his champion until he defends his title. If he beats a guy like Poirier, he will earn the respect he wants.
It has been a long journey for him.
After a disappointing run at 145 pounds featherweight, where he lost four of his last six fights by knockout, Oliveira spent the final months of 2016 gaining weight to return to the 155-pound category. Poirier hadn’t dropped as far, but he was coming off a knockout loss to a sub-.500 opponent (Michael Johnson), his fourth octagon loss.
Nevertheless, for both fighters, it’s been practically nothing but positive momentum since then, propelling them to the top of the UFC’s annual blockbuster year-end pay-per-view event.
“I don’t know him personally but his work history, I can’t hate on anything he’s done. It’s incredible,” Poirier continued.
“That’s tougher to do than, I think, go undefeated, because you never learn things about yourself [when you win]. You learn so much about yourself in those losses and climbing back up to the top and getting motivated again. That’s when you find out if you’re a real fighter.”
Poirier, who won the interim lightweight championship two years ago before losing in a unification match to Nurmagomedov, understands what it’s like. Poirier’s progress has been most apparent in the last year when he defeated superstar Conor McGregor in the big show of two of the year’s greatest fight shows.
In September 2014, McGregor knocked out Poirier after getting into his head with a barrage of trash talk leading up to the fight. In a pair of stoppage victories over McGregor in January and July, Poirier tuned out all the noise.
Poirier’s journey towards becoming a great fighter includes the difficult choice to leave his local gym in Lafayette, Louisiana, years ago to train with some of the sport’s finest at the American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida.
Oliveira, a native of So Paulo, made a similar journey, joining the illustrious Chute Boxe.
“It’s just been a long process of years of making mistakes from being too committed and caring too much about everything, things I couldn’t control,” Poirier said. “It’s just the evolution of myself.”