Gaethje and Poirier set to battle in UFC 291

Photo still from video: Dustin Poirier, left, and Justin Gaethje stare each other down at the ceremonial weigh in on Friday. The two will battle for the BMF title on Saturday night in Salt Lake City.

By Jon Johnson

SALT LAKE CITY – After a week up here in Salt Lake City, Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier and Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje are poised and ready to do battle for the BMF in what could be the fight of the year headlining UFC 291.

In a UFC promo for the fight, Mike Tyson says the belt goes to the baddest man on the planet, and while he doesn’t completely describe the acronym you get the gist.

Both fighters have gone 6-2 since their first fight, with each having lost to both Khabib Nurmagomedov and Charles Oliveria in title fights. Both are 34 years old and are ranked No. 2 (Poirier) and No. 3 (Gaethje) in the UFC Lightweight Division.  

Gaethje and Poirier have both been interim Lightweight Champions but haven’t achieved the ultimate glory as Lightweight Champion yet, but this fight will be the stepping stone to a championship bout next against either current champion Islam Makhachev, or Charles Oliveira, who have a fight set. Gaethje said while he believes the smart money is on Makhachev in that bout, he would prefer it to be Oliveira, because, like his rematch with Poirier, its one Gaethje says he would love to get another crack at.

On Friday Poirier and Gaethje both made weight, 155 pounds and 156 pounds, respectively, however, another main card event was canceled after Michel Pereira came in 3 pounds overweight for his welterweight match with Stephen Thompson.

There will still be plenty of other interesting fights to see on the main card, including the co-main event light heavyweight fight between Jan Blachowicz and Alex Pereira, which could set up the winner for a title match; a welterweight bout between Michael Chiesa and Kevin Holland, and a lightweight bout between Tony Ferguson and Bobby Green, the latter whom I saw mugging with some kids at the City Creek Center mall Friday afternoon while repping his Utah gear.

UFC Video/Ceremonial Weigh-in: Gaethje/Poirier section begins at about the 13 minute mark.

In their first match in May 2018, Gaethje and Poirier showed why they are considered some of the most violent fighters in the UFC, with announcer Joe Rogan even telling Gaethje later that he was “the most violent man in the most violent sport.” The fight served as a bit of an introduction for Gaethje to the UFC even if it was in a loss – something he wouldn’t do again until it was a title shot.

In that first fight, Gaethje appeared to be in a good position after three rounds of heavily damaging Poirier’s leg and combining that with opportunistic shots that battered Poirier’s eye. As they came out in the fourth, Gaethje looked confident, poised, and ready for victory. He came in strong and got another leg kick, except this time Poirier hit him with the most beautiful left hook that should have floored him.

Dazed by the strike, Gaethje retreated but the seasoned Poirier leapt at his chance. After being on the losing end of three rounds, the battered Poirier landed strike after strike to Gaethje’s head until the referee stopped the fight with the knockout victory. The fight earned both of them after-fight bonuses – something Gaethje would end up getting accustomed to.

Now, the two pugilists will put it all on the line at the Delta Center before a rabid Salt Lake Center crowd on Saturday, July 29, starting at 7 p.m. PT on pay-per-view on ESPN+.