Throughout his career, Dustin Poirier has more often tasted victory than defeat. But a loss, regardless of how it occurs, is always a tough pill to swallow.
At UFC 291, he encountered only his second knockout defeat in his lightweight career, with Justin Gaethje taking him down with a head kick in the second round of their main event rematch. This unexpected and understandably distressing outcome was something that Poirier could only accept gracefully when discussing the knockout at the post-match press conference.
“Of course, it’s disappointing,” Poirier admitted. “Nobody likes to lose, but it’s not my first defeat. As I’ve said before, it’s uncomfortable being familiar with these emotions, but I’ve been in this position before. Given my career, the battles I’ve fought, and where I hail from, I believe I’ve already claimed victory.
“I’m taking things step by step, but I’m fine. If I embrace winning as a man, I must also accept defeat in the same manner.”
He reflected on his performance, noting that he had a strong first round where he landed some heavy blows on Gaethje, including a combination that seemed to unbalance the former interim lightweight champion.
Reflecting on that instant, Poirier concedes that he was trying to conserve his energy for a 25-minute match with Gaethje, leading him to exhibit patience instead of reckless abandon.
“I felt I was in a good groove,” Poirier explained. “He was retreating a lot, kind of making me pursue him, and I didn’t want to expose myself too much by brawling in an attempt to corner him. I hurt him, but I knew we had five rounds, and I sensed he was injured but still somewhat luring me. He wasn’t completely done and ready to be finished. I saw him readying that right hand. We were both fresh, it was only one round into the match and I didn’t want to run into that right hand.
“We had four more rounds to play, if I hurt him once, it was bound to happen again. In my mind, that was an experienced move. Perhaps I should have been more aggressive. I thought I had four more rounds. I didn’t realize I only had two more minutes. But it is what it is. Defeat stings.”
Their rematch with Gaethje was marketed with the “BMF” championship at stake, but more crucially, the victor was practically guaranteed a future shot at the UFC lightweight title.
That was what Poirier wanted above all, so this defeat puts his next move into question.
“Before this match when they offered me Beneil [Dariush], I wasn’t really excited,” Poirier elaborated. “But when this offer came in, it made me apprehensive and anxious, knowing the outcome could be as it happened. That’s what got me up and ready to give my all every morning. Not only the thrill of the fight, the danger of the fight that motivated me, but also a win would secure me [a title shot]. We’re ranked No. 2 and 3, and No. 1 [Charles Oliveira] already defeated us and he’s fighting for the title. How much higher can I climb on the ladder? I thought a victory over him would undoubtedly earn me a title shot.
“I still feel in great shape. I was caught by a punch I simply didn’t anticipate. By natural instinct, I had one hand up due to years of training, but the foot still connected. I haven’t seen it, I need to review it. The foot connected well, it got me. I didn’t even see it, but I still can compete. I have some fight left in me. I feel fantastic. I just completed a nine-week camp in south Florida, pushing myself daily, and had the easiest weight cut of my life. I put in my best efforts. That’s why defeat stings. You put in all this effort and nothing is promised.”
At his core, Poirier says he still has a deep love for the sport, which is why quitting would be extraordinarily difficult, but he also acknowledges that he needs the right kind of motivation to keep going.
Perhaps a trilogy with Gaethje could lure him back, but Poirier was reluctant to ponder his future while the loss was still fresh in his mind, even though he was also quick to put things into perspective.
“It’s a realm of uncertainty out there, but like Pookie [from New Jack City], I keep finding myself drawn back,” Poirier stated. “It’s a relentless call. I can’t quit. We’ll see what unfolds. I might need another shot. I’m uncertain. Right now, I’m just taking it day by day, moment by moment, but overall, I’m content. My life is good. My family’s well, my daughter can’t wait for me to get home. We’re not at a funeral here. I’ve succeeded. I’ve won at life. From where I come from, I’ve already triumphed.
“What am I fighting for? I’m not just fighting to fight. I’ve done that my entire life. I don’t want to fight just for the sake of fighting. I want it to mean something.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Dustin Poirier’s knockout loss
Who did Dustin Poirier lose to at UFC 291?
Dustin Poirier lost to Justin Gaethje at UFC 291.
How did Justin Gaethje defeat Dustin Poirier at UFC 291?
Justin Gaethje defeated Dustin Poirier at UFC 291 by a knockout in the second round, with a head kick that ended their rematch.
What was Dustin Poirier’s reaction to his loss at UFC 291?
Dustin Poirier expressed disappointment at his loss, stating it was a punch he didn’t anticipate that led to his defeat. However, he stated he felt he could still compete and was taking the loss in stride.
What were the stakes of the rematch between Poirier and Gaethje?
The rematch between Poirier and Gaethje was not only for the “BMF” championship but the winner was also almost certainly going to secure a future title shot in the UFC lightweight division.
What is Dustin Poirier’s plan for the future after this loss?
Poirier didn’t explicitly outline his future plans after the loss. He admitted that he’s still drawn to the sport and could potentially be enticed back for a trilogy with Gaethje. However, he is also considering what he wants to fight for, emphasizing that he doesn’t want to fight just for the sake of fighting. He’s taking it day by day and moment by moment.