Dustin Poirier has had his fair share of highs and lows inside the octagon but his perseverance to get back to his feet and climb the lightweight ladder has led him to the biggest match of his ten-year professional career.

The 30-year-old is slated to lock horns with undefeated Russian phenom Khabib Nurmagomedov in a world title unification contest at UFC 242, which takes place in Abu Dhabi tomorrow.

Whether it is featherweight or lightweight, Poirier has almost constantly been on the cusp of earning a world title shot since joining the Las Vegas-headquartered promotion over eight years ago.

However, ‘The Diamond’ has consistently fallen short. At featherweight he scored impressive wins over the likes of Max Holloway, Diego Brandao and Akira Corassani.

Unfortunately for him, he failed to deliver the goods when it came to critical matches that could earn him a date with then-division titleholder Jose Aldo, yielding to Chan Sung Jung, Cub Swanson and Conor McGregor.

His first-round stoppage defeat to McGregor was his final straw at featherweight, prompting him to return to lightweight. Once more, Poirier was on a tear, beating the likes of Carlos Diego Ferreira, Yancy Medeiros, Joseph Duffy and Bobby Green.

Dustin Poirier and Tony Ferguson

Ups and downs

But no sooner had he got himself in the title picture than his championship aspirations were again derailed, this time, at the hands of Michael Johnson.

At that time, many pundits had already written Poirier off as a contender on the basis that he repeatedly blundered in bouts that mattered. But he managed to prove them wrong, racking up five consecutive victories, including a decision win over Holloway which earned him the interim 155lbs title,

“I’ve had naysayers my whole career in this sport, and I have found a way to overcome the odds,” Poirier said.

“I am thankful for my family and team. They never gave up on me. They supported me all the way.”

Now, Poirier faces the #2 pound-for-pound fighter on the UFC roster and perhaps the best lightweight in MMA history. He has an opportunity to establish himself as the undisputed champion and one of the best fighters on the planet and the native of Lafayette, Louisiana is determined to make the most of it,

“I really feel good right now. I’m just in the moment, and I am appreciative of the opportunity that was given to me. I will not let it slip through my fingers, that’s for sure. I’m here to take full advantage of it, capitalize and become the undisputed world champion,” he declared.

Dustin Poirier belt

Important lessons

According to Poirier, his setbacks in the past have provided him with important lessons that Nurmagomedov has yet to learn,

“Being undefeated is incredible. It’s hard to do, especially against the competition that he has faced in the past. But I’ve learned lessons through trial, through error and triumph that he’s never learned yet,” he stated.

He feels that the losses have ultimately strengthened him, and will make him stronger than his undefeated opponent on Saturday,

“There’s something about picking yourself up off the ground time and time again, and still chasing your dreams,” Poirier said.

For Nurmagomedov to reach this stage of his career without being defeated is remarkable. It hasn’t happened before and might not occur again and that is something which weighs on Poirier’s mind.

The interim champion is well aware of the extent of the challenge that awaits him on Saturday. He knows the task is a tall one but believes he can make history by becoming the first man to defeat Nurmagomedov,

“I’m here to make history. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face. On Saturday night, I’m going out there to do something that’s never been done and I’m honoring it and respecting it,” he said.