The UFC Featherweight division is ruled with an iron fist by Brazilian juggernaut Jose Aldo and at this point in time there hasn’t been anyone who has given him a true test. Other than Mark Hominck’s dominating fifth round of their bout at UFC 129, Aldo has pretty much controlled each and every fight he has been in. When the time came to find him an opponent for his fourth defense of the UFC Featherweight Championship the pickings were slim.
Hatsu Hioki chose to take another fight instead of facing the consensus number one ranked featherweight in the world. So the UFC decided to go with Erik Koch who has won four straight fights since losing to Aldo’s last victim Chad Mendes at WEC 47 in March of 2010. He may not be the popular pick, but circumstances dictated his place opposite of Aldo in the main event of the UFC’s first trip to Calgary.
The man many feel poses the biggest threat to Aldo’s throne is Louisiana native Dustin Poirier. The Diamond burst on to the scene with a stunning upset victory over the Josh Grispi at UFC 125 in what was supposed to be a tune-up fight for Grispi. Somebody forget to tell Poirier that he wasn’t supposed to be anything more than a sparring partner for Grispi and in what was his featherweight debut, Poirier truly dominated Grispi for the entire three round fight.
Poirier has reeled off three since that New Year’s Day in 2011 and each win has become increasingly more impressive. So why isn’t Poirier facing Aldo at UFC 149 instead of Koch? The answer to that question is simple; the UFC booked him in the main event of UFC on Fuel 3 against “The Korean Zombie” Jung Chan-Sung. The winner of this bout should go on to face the winner of Aldo-Koch and listening to Poirier speak, he will be more than ready when the opportunity presents itself.
“Right now I feel like I am the best I have ever been technically,” Poirier told FightLine.com. “I know I am still growing as a fighter, but this is the best I have ever felt mentally and physically. I’m ready to do battle, my nutrition, my workouts are at their peak right now. I’m ready for a main event fight and to go five rounds. I feel like I am a faster, more technically sound striker than Jung and I’m sure he believes the same things. I feel like I can out-wrestle him, my BJJ is just as good as his if not better, I feel as though I match up really well against him.”
With Aldo tied up for the time being with Koch many fans and pundits feel as though the winner of this fight may be in line to face the winner of Aldo-Koch. It’s something that has been discussed on various websites and Twitter. Poirier is more concerned with the task at hand, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an opinion on how he sees the UFC 149 main event playing out.
“I haven’t heard anything from the UFC in fact the only chatter I have heard has been on Twitter and MMA websites,” offered Poirier. “I haven’t directly talked to anyone about it so I guess it’s still up in the air as to who will get the next shot. It’ll be a fun fight to watch and I think Erik is a great fighter, but I think Aldo will definitely keep his belt.”
The UFC also recently announced a match-up pitting Hioki against the always dangerous Ricardo Lamas. If a win over Jung isn’t enough to garner a shot at the featherweight title the UFC could possibly have the winner of Poirier-Jung face off against the winner of Hioki-Lamas. While it’s not the shortest path to a title shot it would definitely present some exciting fights for Poirier.
“I think it would be perfect timing to be honest with you,” explained Poirier. “The Hioki fight is a month after mine and it would give me the opportunity to take some time to rest up and prepare properly. I want get back in the Gi and have fun training some jiu-jitsu and relax a little bit, not from training, but from the stress of preparing from a fight. A lot goes into training for a fight, it’s not just physical, it’s emotional, and I put all of myself into it. Sometimes it’s nice to take some time and just get better as a fighter. It’s a tough fight to call, but I think Lamas can grind out a 15 minute decision over Hioki.”
Recently I had an opportunity to speak with one of Poirier’s training partners at the Gladiator Training Academy. Eric Scallan told me that no matter how tired Poirier is he will also be there to help his teammates prepare for a fight. There are times when Poirier actually has to be told to relax a bit because he is so dedicated to getting better and helping his friends become the best fighters they can possibly be.
“I do have a pretty high energy level, I can’t deny that,” said the 23-year-old Lafayette, LA native. “I want to win and I want to perform well, I care so much about the fight and to tell you the truth there are times when I feel so tired when I walk into the gym, but I keep going because I want to win so badly. That’s why I want to take some time off so I can help my teammates prepare for their fights, I want to make sure their ready and I’ll do whatever I can to help them improve their game.
“We have a whole bunch of up and coming fighters training with us at Gladiator. There is Eric Scallan who has fought for Bellator, Aaron Phillips and Thomas Webb. They are a bunch of guys who you may not have heard of, but they are incredible fighters with bright futures. They are a tremendous help when it comes to me getting ready for a fight. We’re a great team and more like a family than anything. We’ve been training for a while and it’s a great atmosphere to be in. When one of us is successful we all feel that success.”
Many fighters who achieve a lot of success at an early age have a hard time handling the attention that comes along with becoming a star in the world of mixed martial arts. Others have been preparing for this since he was young and has his two feet firmly planted on the ground. It’s easy to see why so many people are predicting great things for this young man.
“I couldn’t have dreamed it to happen this quick and for things to turn out the way they have,” admitted Poirier. “It’s a lot of my hard work paying off and I am really dedicated. I am in the gym every day and now that I am doing it for a living it has to be about money somewhat so I can support myself in between fights, but I’m more in it for the battles and for the love I have for the sport. Of course the nice paychecks don’t hurt, it allows me and my wife to live comfortably and I get to have a dream job. I push myself to be the best because by the time I am 30 I want to be the best.”
With the fight against Jung just two days away the excitement is growing and the anticipation is getting stronger. For the man they call “The Diamond” he has never felt more prepared and is ready to give the fans in Virginia and at home something they will remember.
“Fans can expect everything from me on Tuesday night, even the kitchen sink,” Poirier said while laughing. “It’s going to be a war; it’s going to be an incredible 25 minutes. I’m excited to test myself and I know this will make me a better fighter. We’re going to go in there and rise to the occasion. I’ve been watching video of him every morning, he’s an animal. I love his aggression when he gets hit he wants to hit you back twice. He keeps moving forward, we are the main event for a reason and I plan on showing the UFC they made the right decision placing me in this position.”
Poirier would like to thank Headrush, his training partners at Gladiator and his family and friends.