TNT Sports Reload - Episode 11Sep 26
The penultimate card of 2021 should be an absolute barnburner this weekend at UFC 269 with a main event worthy of rounding out another scintillating year of action inside the Octagon.
It sees newly-minted lightweight champion Charles Oliveira make the first defence of his title against the man many believe to be the uncrowned king of the 155lb division, Dustin Poirier.
To say Oliveira took the scenic route to championship glory before claiming the belt in his 28th UFC appearance last time out does not do the Brazilian fighter’s journey over the past decade justice.
From the highest of highs, winning on his UFC debut and going on to defeat the likes of Jeremy Stephens and Nik Lentz, to the lowest of lows, being labelled a ‘quitter’ in defeat to Paul Felder, Oliveira has seen it all.
Now riding a nine-fight win streak that helped achieve what once seemed impossible in securing the 155lb title, Oliveira is suddenly the man with a target on his back in the UFC’s most competitive division.
His opponent on Saturday night also knows a thing or two about rebounding from setbacks having come so close to achieving his own dreams of lifting the undisputed lightweight crown.
Khabib Nurmagomedov was the man standing across the Octagon from Dustin Poirier that night and it was the Russian who extinguished Poirier’s hopes in typically dominant fashion at UFC 242.
But ‘The Diamond’ is as headstrong as they come and with a pair of wins over Conor McGregor to compliment an impressive victory over Dan Hooker, the 32-year-old has rebuilt to prove himself a more than worthy challenger for the lightweight crown once more.
Sometimes you must navigate obstacles and when you think you’ve just made it, you have a heart-breaking situation that puts you back down
- Georges St-Pierre
Speaking exclusively to BTSport.com, former UFC welterweight king Georges St-Pierre acknowledged the similarities between the two rivals in climbing back to the top of the tree.
“They’ve both shown a lot of mental strength and a lot of character,” the 44-year-old added.
“That’s what it takes to be champion. It’s not a straight line, sometimes you must navigate obstacles and when you think you’ve just made it, you have a heart-breaking situation that puts you back down.
“But you have to climb again. And they’ve shown a lot of that heart.
“I found it very inspirational when Glover Teixeira won the [light heavyweight] title recently. He did what I just said, that’s what I mean by mental strength. Glover Teixeira’s journey was not a straight line. It went up, down, up, down, sometimes it was heart-breaking!
“I’m so happy for him. I never thought he would win the title and he did! He shocked everybody. That’s what makes the beauty of this sport. Those moments are very inspirational.”
Dustin Poirier will make his 29th Octagon walk on Saturday night hoping his ascension to the lightweight throne can be a source of similar inspiration when he completes the job against a dangerous champion at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“If I can become the world champion Saturday night, I’ve done everything I set out to do,” Poirier told MMA Junkie.
“I’ve set my family up. We’re in a good position financially. I have other businesses. I have to check that box. That’s forever. I was saying 25 minutes to make life fair. This is 25 minutes for eternity, 25 until eternity. That’s what this is. You don’t take that away.
“Once a champion, always a champion. It’s very important for me and my wife. It just cements everything that we’ve done.”
The Louisiana man enters the bout a warm favourite with the bookmakers to topple Oliveira - he’s priced at 8/13 to the champ’s 11/8 – but Hall of Famer St-Pierre believes it has the makings of a true 50/50 contest.
The Love Hemp ambassador added: “If it’s mostly a striking game I think Dustin Poirier might have the advantage even though Charles Oliveira is very well rounded. But if the fight goes on the ground, it’s going to be bad for Dustin Poirier.
“It’s a classic match-up, grappler vs striker, even though they’re both very versatile. But they both specialise in two different areas.”
Whatever happens, it all goes down exclusively live on BT Sport this Saturday night as two of the most decisive finishers in the lightweight division throw down for the biggest prize of all.
Don’t miss UFC 269: Oliveira vs Poirier!
Georges St-Pierre is an ambassador for Love Hemp, the UK’s leading supplier of CBD products. To find out more head to www.lovehemp.com