Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje prepared for possible brutal rematch at UFC 291
Dustin Poirier said early this week that if Saturday’s headline bout at UFC 291 goes the five-round distance, both fighters might wind up in the hospital.
His opponent, Justin Gaethje, didn’t disagree.
“We both create a lot of damage, and 25 minutes is a long time to create that damage,” said Gaethje, who lives in Denver. “That’s a pretty fair assessment, I would say.”
The winner of the lightweight fight in Salt Lake City sets himself up for a potential title match. Poirier (29-7, one no-contest) is ranked second and Gaethje (25-4) is third. Champion Islam Makhachev faces top-ranked contender Charles Oliveira on Oct. 21 at the main event at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Poirier and Gaethje are focused on positioning themselves for that possibility, but there also is what is called the BMF belt that will be awarded to Saturday’s winner. That is a UFC creation that stands for Bad (Unprintable), and it will be the second time this belt will have been given out.
“My wife told me this is my legacy,” said Poirier, who lives in Coconut Creek, Florida. “Put this BMF belt up on my mantle. When I’m gone from the sport, I can talk about the second BMF in history fight.”
That belt is the only one on the line and probably the reason it was offered. It’s unusual for a pay-per-view UFC card not to have a championship bout, and UFC 290 three weeks ago in Las Vegas had two.
These fighters have met before, but that was five years ago. Both say they are different fighters and people now, so not much can be read into the bout that ended with a fourth-round technical knockout by Poirier.
But the one carryover from that night is both expect the same kind of action-packed drama in the rematch, which helped put Poirier in place to claim the lightweight belt a year later. He lost in his following match and has been chasing the championship ever since.
Gaethje claimed the lightweight crown in 2020, but similar to Poirier, lost it in his next outing.
In many ways, it feels like this rematch was meant to be, but that wasn’t necessarily the case for the fighters.
They even sat together watching a UFC fight card in Las Vegas after that first meeting and agreed it wasn’t worth going through that kind of agony again. Poirier didn’t even give a rematch another thought until recently, saying he “didn’t see it coming.”
But in hindsight, Poirier also recognized that when the meeting was proposed about two months ago, that it made too much sense.
“We’re just on a collision course, it seems, to do it again,” Poirier said.
So now both fighters are prepared for what could be a brutal five rounds in the octagon and the potential ramifications of what could happen.
Gaethje said his plan is to fight a technical match, but that he’s “willing to fight fire with fire.”
“This guy is dangerous,” Gaethje said. “I’ve accepted this is a 50-50 fight in my mind. With the chance of retribution, it’s been driving me every day to work harder.”
Poirier said Gaethje’s reputation for being willing to push the limits isn’t entirely accurate.
“He doesn’t go out of his way to portray that, but he’s kind of got that aura about him now — the chaos and the most violent,” Poirier said. “But I really am that, and he knows that, so let’s go there.”
In the co-main event, third-ranked light heavyweight Jan Blachowicz (29-9-1) of Warsaw, Poland, faces second-ranked middleweight Alex Pereira (7-2), who lives in Danbury, Connecticut. Both are former champions.