For a few tense seconds, Dustin Poirier had the undisputed UFC lightweight title in his sights.
Poirier’s guillotine choke had champ Khabib Nurmagomedov in trouble in the second round of their UFC 242 title unifier in September 2019. What happened in the middle of that sequence perhaps left the former interim champ with a lifetime of what-ifs.
“I just know how close it was,” Poirier told Joe Rogan on “The Joe Rogan Experience.” “A game of inches, and I know how close it was. What haunts me more than [not pulling] full guard is me not switching to a D’Arce or anaconda [choke] when he rolled to his side.”
It was at that point that Nurmagomedov readjusted his position and gained space where he could breathe. Soon, the champ was out of danger and threatening a rear-naked choke. Then, the choke was in, and the undisputed title had slipped from the Louisianan’s hands.
Along with the cringe from 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 ever fought,” Poirier said. “It’s just his understanding of balance and weight placement was incredible. I’ve been fighting and wrestling a long time, as well, but he just knew where my weight was and where it needed to be for me to stay up with his foot trips. It’s hard to explain, man, but he’s good.”
Afterward, Nurmagomedov stepped up to the plate financially for Poirier’s “The Good Fight Foundation,” donating money that went to building water wells for Batwa Pygmy people in connection with the “Fight for the Forgotten” charity run by ex-UFC heavyweight Justin Wren.
Poirier would, of course, like the champ to return to the octagon (and UFC President Dana White still hasn’t stripped him of the belt, despite a retirement announcement after a win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254). But he also sees the many ways that could go south for Nurmagomedov and his 29-0 resume.
“The longer you stay…it’s not a long game,” Poirier said. “Something bad’s going to happen.”
As for Poirier, he said he’s always imagined fighting until he’s 35. But that prediction may not hold up as he waits for his next bout. 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 is still practicing his submissions. He wanted to submit McGregor to avenge his 2014 loss at featherweight, but wound up knocking out the former two-division champion in the second round. A tapout would be a nice feather in his cap.
“I haven’t finished anybody in the UFC,” he said. “It’s coming. I’ll get ya.”