It didn’t take Dustin Poirier long to discover what it’s like to ride the Diaz roller-coaster.
Less than a day after the UFC announced Poirier’s marquee matchup against Nate Diaz for UFC 230, Diaz made headlines when he stormed out of the UFC’s 25th Anniversary Press Conference in Los Angeles during the promotion’s reveal of the Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor mega-fight. Diaz then ranted to reporters outside the venue and fired off an ominous tweet that declared, “I’m not fighting on that show fuk the UFC,” which led to similar joking tweet from Poirier.
Diaz added that the UFC “better start acting right and start over-promoting instead of under-promoting” him. But was he being serious about his change of heart for UFC 230?
As far as Poirier is concerned, the fight is still on for Nov. 3.
“I mean, as far as I know,” Poirier said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I think I’m the one fighting the guy. If something changed, I think they would have let me know. I haven’t heard anything. Nate says a lot of stuff, but when he signs a fight contract, I don’t really know of any times that he’s not shown up to fight or pulled out of a fight. He says a lot of stuff and does a lot of stuff in the media between fights, but when he signs a contract, the guy shows up and puts it all on the line every time.”
Diaz told TMZ “we’ll see if I’m even fighting” when asked about the tweet and his UFC 230 status following the press conference.
Poirier explained that he isn’t sure what Diaz’s specific issues were, but he believes the Stockton native was simply upset with the timing of how everything went down.
“I think what it was is, he was upset that he came down to do the press conference and then they promoted Conor and Khabib, and those guys weren’t even there and he was there,” Poirier said. “I don’t know, I think that’s maybe more of what it was, like he wasted his time promoting these other guys while he’s there on stage and they didn’t talk about his fight, type of thing. But I’m not 100 percent [sure]. That’s just hearsay.”
Assuming the fight does proceed as planned, it presents a major opportunity for Poirier to stamp his claim for a title shot against the winner of Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor. Despite his two-year absence, Diaz remains one of the biggest mainstream names on the UFC roster — his last two fights against McGregor shattered pay-per-view records for the sport. A win over a high-profile name like Diaz would do wonders for Poirier’s stock, so Poirier jumped at the chance to test himself against the popular veteran at Madison Square Garden.
“Putting the title aside, Nate’s probably the second-biggest fight that I can get,” Poirier explained. “It would be Conor, that would be the biggest fight obviously, and then it’s Nate Diaz. In the lightweight division, that’s the biggest fight I can get right now. And Nate’s a guy I’ve always watched fight. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, I’ve always wanted to fight him. And Madison Square Garden is another part of it, I’ve always wanted to fight at Madison Square Garden. There’s so much history there. I’ve fought a lot of places, that’s one place I want to scratch off the list. So this fight just made sense.
“If the UFC told me that, ‘Yeah, you’re going to fight for the belt in four months,’ I could’ve waited four or five months. But the way it looks, Conor and Khabib are going to fight towards the end of the year, then I don’t know what’s going to happen, when the belt’s going to be defended again, and you never know what’s going to happen, man, so I don’t want to wait 10 months. I want to stay busy and this fight made a lot of sense to me.”
In terms of their recent activity levels, Poirier and Diaz could not be more different.
UFC 230 will mark Poirier’s fourth fight against top-level competition over a 12-month span. “The Diamond” is perfect thus far over the course of that run, claiming stoppage victories over former MMA champions Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, and Eddie Alvarez. Diaz, on the other hand, has be sidelined since his Aug. 2016 rematch against McGregor at UFC 202, which still stands as the highest-selling pay-per-view in MMA history. Nonetheless, Poirier isn’t putting much stock into wondering whether ring rust will affect Diaz at UFC 230.
“He’s a veteran,” Poirier said. “Everybody’s different, but when you have as many fights as he has, as many fights as I have, you know how you need to feel. It’s more about timing and rhythm. A few sparring sessions, I’m sure he’ll start to see that come back if it’s not already there. He’s in the gym always, he’s competing in the gym, I’m sure he’s doing jiu-jitsu all the time. The competition and the damage you take in sparring, and all this type of stuff, sometimes it’s better for guys, they feel better coming back after time off, so everybody’s different. It’s tough to say anything about that.”
Though he may be best known for his rivalry with McGregor, Diaz stands as one of the true veterans of the lightweight class. He debuted in the UFC with a triumphant run on The Ultimate Fighter 5 over a decade ago when the promotion first brought back the 155-pound division, and his résumé is filled with a slew of notable scalps such as Donald Cerrone, Jim Miller, Michael Johnson, and Gray Maynard (x2).
So title implications aside, Poirier knows how big a win at UFC 230 would be for his own legacy.
“He’s just another guy who’s been around a long time, a legend of the sport,” Poirier said. “Beating him after I beat Eddie Alvarez, I’m going back-to-back on the guys who I think are some of the biggest names in lightweight history, so that’s just solidifying me as being amongst those guys. When it’s all said and done, when I get my title shot, when I get the belt, like I said before, this is just all part of the legacy. This is part of the reason why I fight.”