They say diamonds are formed under pressure and perhaps no man better exemplifies that than Dustin Poirier.
Born in Lafayette, Louisiana, Poirier has faced trials and tribulation throughout his entire life and now returns to right the wrongs of his most damaging defeat at UFC 257.
Dustin Poirier has been knocked down, but never stayed thereGetty Images – Getty
In 2014, ‘The Diamond’ was left slumped on the canvas inside the first round of his fiery featherweight bout against fellow contender Conor McGregor.
The Irishman had riled his opponent up sufficiently enough to make him fight on pure emotion and want to take McGregor’s head off.
But since that crushing defeat, the 32-year-old has stopped Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Anthony Pettis, even lifting the interim lightweight title after a bruising affair with Max Holloway in 2019.
Although he was ultimately defeated by the irrepressible Khabib Nurmagomedov in the undisputed world title fight, Poirier again showed his resilience in a bloody battle with Dan Hooker in June. Then McGregor came calling.
Poirier and McGregor face off ahead of their UFC 257 showdownGetty Images – Getty
Poirier is the number two ranked contender in the world at 155lbs and represents a far more dangerous challenge to the Irishman than in 2014.
For anyone who expects to see a repeat performance from McGregor as his last outing in the octagon (a 40-second blowout against Donald Cerrone) be prepared for a shock.
Poirier has lost just two of his 13 fights since that night in Las Vegas and, at a much healthier weight, packs a far greater punch and can also take a shot far better.
But for all his exploits inside the octagon (including moving into the top 10 for most UFC wins with 18) ‘The Diamond’ shines brightest when the lights go off.
The first fight at UFC 178 failed to make it out of the first roundGetty Images – Getty
As a young man, he was inquisitive but liked a fight. At the age of five, he was riding around the neighbourhood in Lafayette with boxing gloves on his handlebars.
School proved to be no help either, with Poirier being placed on probation for truancy. By 14, he had spent four months between juvenile detention and a military-style boot camp.
He completed his freshman American football season, but dropped out of high school soon after and instead chose to hang out with his friends – picking up odd jobs almost as frequently as he picked scraps.
At the age of 18, the void in his life was filled by his newfound love of combat sports. He made his UFC debut at 21 and was headlining his own card at the age of 23.
Head Coach Mike Brown felt ‘The Diamond was depleted at 145lbsGetty Images – Getty
After the McGregor defeat, he made the move to lightweight as American Top Team head coach Mike Brown described the brawler as ‘depleted’.
He told the UFC: “Months out, he was like measuring every portion by the tea spoon. I don’t think that’s good.
“Moving up really changed his durability; he has gotten a lot more durable and things don’t hurt him anymore.”
He also became a father for the first time as he and wife Jolie welcomed Parker Noelle to the world in 2016.
Poirier has matured as a fighter since he and wife Jolie welcomed daughter Parker [email protected] (Instagram)
As Michael Bisping explained to talkSPORT.com, becoming a parent can change fighters for the better.
“Having children for me, that’s why I got into this,” he said. “For some people, when they have children, are like ‘well I am going to step away from the sport now’.
“Listen, there are other opportunities in life, but if you are a fighter and you are cut from the cloth that we are and you are in the UFC and doing well, this is one of the best opportunities you have to make money.”
But the extra responsibility of being a father and the impact of fighting without so much emotion humbled Poirier and allowed him to step up once again.
Defeat to Khabib at UFC 242 was softened by the incredible donation to the Good Fight FoundationGetty Images – Getty
Poirier has the chance to go for UFC gold again if he can defeat Conor McGregor
Not content with providing thrilling fights in the UFC and for his family, ‘The Diamond’ auctioned off his fight-worn kit after the Eddie Alvarez fight in 2017 and the money raised provided 3,000 meals for a local food bank.
Alongside his wife Jolie, the pair launched the ‘Good Fight Foundation’, a non-profit organisation to help local communities and under-served populations in their home state of Louisiana.
In June, Poirier was named the inaugural winner of the UFC’s ‘Forest Griffin Community Award’ in recognition of his charitable contributions. After UFC 242, Khabib donated $100,000 (£73,000) to the cause as well.
Whatever happens on Saturday night in Abu Dhabi, McGregor Sports and Entertainment have already reached out to Poirier’s Foundation and pledged to donate $500,000 (£367,000).
The 32-year-old was on the frontline in the pandemic back in April helping out with ‘The Good Fight Foundation’@thegoodfightfoundation (Instagram)
‘The Diamond’ left the UFC Apex on a stretcher after his fight with Dan Hooker last JuneTwitter: @DustinPoirier
Even if you are the most ardent Conor McGregor fan, a win for Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC 257 would represent the biggest of his career and a victory for the underdog.
Poirier is an inspiration to millions, not least his daughter Parker Noelle and wife Jolie, who has had to fight for everything he has ever earned in the business.
‘The Diamond’ will hope to shine bright once again under the lights at the Etihad Arena, but really, he is already winning.