For a tense few seconds, Dustin Poirier had the undisputed UFC lightweight title in his sights.
Poirier’s guillotine choke had champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in trouble in the second round of his UFC 242 title unifier in September 2019. What happened in the middle of that sequence perhaps left the former interim champion with a life of “ `what if …
“I just know how close it was,” Poirier told Joe Rogan on “The Joe Rogan Experience.” “A set of inches, and I know how close it was. What torments me more than [not pulling] full guard is me not changing to a D’Arce or anaconda [choke] when he rolled next to her. “
It was at that point that Nurmagomedov readjusted his position and gained space where he could breathe. Soon the champion was out of danger and threatened with a strangulation from the back. So, the choke was on, and the undisputed title had slipped from Louisianan’s hands.
Along with the shame of that brush with victory, Poirier was left with a deep and abiding respect for Nurmagomedov.
“I don’t know if he’s the strongest guy I’ve ever fought,” Poirier said. “It’s just that his understanding of balance and weight placement was incredible. I’ve also been wrestling and struggling for a long time, but he knew where my weight was and where it needed to be for me to stay awake with his standing trips. It’s hard to explain, man, but it’s good. “
Afterwards, Nurmagomedov stepped up financially for Poirier’s “The Good Fight Foundation”, donating money that went towards the construction of water wells for the Batwa pygmies in connection with the charity “Fight for the Forgotten” run by the former UFC heavyweight Justin Wren.
Poirier, of course, would like the champion to return to the Octagon (and UFC president Dana White has yet to strip him of the belt, despite a retirement announcement after a win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254) . But he also sees the many paths that could go south for Nurmagomedov and his 29-0 résumé.
“The longer you stay … it’s not a long game,” Poirier said. “Something bad is going to happen.”
As for Poirier, he said he always envisioned himself fighting until he was 35 years old. But that prediction may not hold up as he awaits his next fight. A rematch with Conor McGregor is possible after his knockout win at UFC 257, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.
While he waits, Poirier continues to practice his introductions. He wanted to submit McGregor to avenge his 2014 featherweight loss, but ended up knocking out the former two-division champion in the second round. A tapout would be a nice feather on your cap.
“I’m not done with anyone in the UFC,” he said. “It’s coming. I’ll catch you.”