Dustin Poirier Demands to Be a Contender in Stacked UFC 155-Pound Division

Chad Dundas@@chaddundasMMA Lead WriterNovember 12, 2017

NORFOLK, VA - NOVEMBER 11:  Dustin Poirier celebrates after defeating Anthony Pettis by TKO in their lightweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event inside the Ted Constant Convention Center on November 11, 2017 in Norfolk, Virginia. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Dustin Poirier is no longer asking to be taken seriously as a title contender in the stacked UFC lightweight division.

After Saturday's third-round submission victory over Anthony Pettis in the main event of UFC Fight Night 120, he's demanding it.

"I'm not gonna ask for a fight, I'm gonna tell you right now who I'm going to fight [next]," Poirier told UFC play-by-play announcer Jon Anik in the cage after the fight. "I'm going to fight the winner of Eddie Alvarez-Justin Gaethje, then I'll fight for the belt. There, I laid it out for you."

The victory over Pettis moved Poirier to 6-1-1 since returning to lightweight in April 2015. He came into this fight No. 8 on the fight company's official 155-pound rankings, and emerging victorious in a bloody, Fight of the Night-caliber brawl with Pettis will only improve his stock.

After Pettis tapped because of pain from an apparent broken rib a bit more than two minutes into the third round of their headlining fight at Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Virginia, Poirier jumped up and stalked to the side of the Octagon. Peering through the chain link at UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby, Poirier shouted that he wanted the winner of Alvarez-Gaethje as well as one of the company's $50,000 performance-based bonuses.

The UFC took care of Poirier's first request following the event, awarding both him and Pettis bonus checks for putting on the evening's best scrap.

As for Poirier's other ultimatum?

That one might be a bit tougher to pull off.

Alvarez and Gaethje are scheduled to throw down on Dec. 2 at UFC 218. If Poirier gets his way, the next big contender fight at 155 pounds is already booked a few weeks before that fight even happens.

But as usual, things at lightweight are complicated.

Dustin Poirier
Dustin PoirierBrandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Poirier has been plenty good over the course of the last few years, but his division is historically the UFC's deepest and most competitive weight class. To be considered on the short list for an upcoming title fight might take another fight or two, as well as a couple of lucky breaks in his favor.

Can Poirier sustain his success at the highest level long enough to make it happen?

He certainly seems to think so.

"Everybody points the finger and says I slip up in big fights," Poirier told Anik. "But that's two champions in a row I just beat—so what's up?"

Fact check: In fact, Poirer's most recent previous fight—against former champ Alvarez at UFC 211 in May—was officially ruled a no-contest after Alvarez landed illegal knee's to Poirer's head while he was on the ground.

Lightweight champion Conor McGregor has yet to defend his title after taking it from Alvarez via second-round TKO in November 2016. Instead of diving back into the rank and file of his division, McGregor responded to the Alvarez victory by announcing a lengthy paternity leave from combat sports.

The lightweight division is still Conor McGregor's world.
The lightweight division is still Conor McGregor's world.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

When he did return this summer, it wasn't to the UFC's cage. Instead, he fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a boxing match that became arguably the biggest sports spectacle of 2017. McGregor lost the fight by 10th-round TKO and is currently in negotiations to return to the UFC for his next bout.

This weekend, however, McGregor showed up at a Bellator MMA event in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland, and caused a scene by jumping into the cage to celebrate with victorious teammate Charlie Ward. During the ruckus, McGregor could be seen on video slapping an event official who tried to keep him from entering the cage.

He and referee Marc Goddard also had a brief physical altercation.

It's not clear yet how McGregor will be punished, either by the UFC or any state athletic commission in America. If he's suspended, it would obviously be bad news for guys like Poirier, who would be forced to keep picking each other off in the champion's absence.

Poirier lands a right hand on Anthony Pettis.
Poirier lands a right hand on Anthony Pettis.Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

McGregor's disappearing act has already gone on long enough that the UFC put an interim 155-pound title on Tony Ferguson following his win over Kevin Lee at UFC 216 in October. If and when McGergor does return, smart money has been trending in the direction of a unification bout with Ferguson.

Even behind that pairing, there is a gaggle of contenders such as the perennially injured Khabib Nurmagomedov, Edson Barboza and longtime McGregor rival Nate Diaz. Any one of them might score a shot at the title before Poirier gets his chance.

As usual, during the McGregor era, the UFC's official rankings will likely fall by the wayside in favor of the champion's whims. McGregor will pick and choose his opponents according to his own rules.

That too could set Poirier back in the pecking order, since he lost to McGregor via TKO in a featherweight fight back in September 2014. If there's no enormous pile of money to be made in a rematch, it's unlikely McGregor would be interested in a second engagement.

For Poirier, however, you can't argue with his most recent results.

MacMally🍀 @MacMallyMMA

Dustin Poirier vs Eddie Alvarez was wild. Dustin Poirier vs Anthony Pettis was WILD. Dustin Poirier vs Justin Gaethje would be WILDER. 👊

His performance against Pettis was an impressive one, battering the former champ on the feet and mixing in some timely takedowns en route to victory.

He cut Pettis open near the left eye with a counterpunch in the first round and wobbled the 30-year-old Wisconsin native with a combination just before the bell. In the second, he scored with a big slam and avoided a pair of triangle chokes as the blood from Pettis' cut made it too slippery to lock up a submission.

In the third, the end came after the two had returned to the mat, with Poirier controlling Pettis from the back. As Poirier moved to transition to mount, Pettis tapped from pain in his ribs. At first, the finishing sequence provided an anticlimactic ending to their back-and-forth brawl, though the replay appeared to show Pettis injure his ribs as Poirier moved around him on the ground.

Exactly what happens next for Poirer is unknown. With more the seven years under his belt as a UFC/WEC veteran, he is certainly no stranger to high-profile bouts.

UFC fans regard him as an exciting, likable fighter, but a guy who has never quite broken though to championship contention.

This latest run could change that perception of Poirier, though he'll have to keep it going while the McGregor-centric logjam at the top works itself out.