UFC lightweight contender Justin Gaethje has questioned whether Dustin Poirier‘s lucrative fights with Conor McGregor earlier this year may have hampered his performance against Charles Oliveira at UFC 269.
At the final pay-per-view of 2021, many expected Poirier to secure his place in contention for Fighter of the Year through a title crowning. In January, “The Diamond” got his 2014 loss to McGregor back by becoming the first man to knock the former two-division champion out. Six months later, the pair headlined their second event of the year. Poirier secured the trilogy victory after the Irishman broke his leg in the opening round.
Following two lucrative money fights, Poirier turned his attention back to the belt. He became the first man to challenge the reign of fellow promotional veteran Charles Oliveira at UFC 269.
Despite entering the fight as the favorite, the Louisianan had a dose of déjà vu from his previous title attempt in 2019. Like against Khabib Nurmagomedov, Poirier was submitted with a rear-naked choke in the third round by “Do Bronx.”
The result has seemingly set the stage for new #1-ranked contender Gaethje to have his second crack at the undisputed gold in 2022. Following the main event fight that likely determined which individual he’ll be looking to dethrone next year, “The Highlight” discussed the action that unfolded in an interview with ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto.
Gaethje suggested that Poirier’s previous outings in 2021 may have had a negative impact on his drive to succeed at UFC 269. Having earned millions with two triumphs over MMA’s biggest superstar, the Arizona native believes Poirier may have had less hunger than before this year.
“Luckily for me, I’ve just lost a fight two fights ago. You know, I’m back here in this position, but when you get to the top and you lose, you’re not sure if you’re gonna get back. And I’m not coming off two (fights) where I just made $10 million-plus, at the end of the day. (I have) the same goals I had from day one, which are to represent my family, my country, my town, to inspire the world, and to gain economic comfortability for me and my family through this sport.
“I don’t have that yet, so of course I’m still as hungry as ever. I can’t say that’s why Poirier wasn’t or was; I don’t think he wasn’t hungry, I just, I don’t know. I can’t imagine… I hope one day I know how hard it is to get ready for a fight coming off those two big paychecks.”
Gaethje Suggests Oliveira Had “More Hunger” At UFC 269
Whether the McGregor fights had a significant part to play or not, Gaethje, who was in attendance for Oliveira’s first title defense, believes the Brazilian had “more hunger” on the night. Nevertheless, “The Highlight” acknowledged there was more to the result than just that, also suggesting “Do Bronx” is simply better at this moment in time.
“You know, I think he’s (Oliveira) better right now (than Poirier), more hungry, per se, more specifically. That’s such a huge factor, and then the confidence, the fact the belt is around his waist, he’s representing Brazil on that level, it just makes this man that much harder to beat. I think that was a big piece of it.”
Having previously doubted the toughness and resolve of Oliveira, Gaethje will now look to prove himself right and do what Poirier failed to do when he gets his own shot at the Brazilian’s gold next year.
Do you agree with Justin Gaethje? Did Charles Oliveira have more hunger than Dustin Poirier at UFC 269?