It was in September of last year when Dustin Poirier faced Conor McGregor at UFC 178 and suffered the most devastating setback of his career: a first-round knockout loss, in under two minutes. For McGregor, it was the first victory over a top-opponent, proof, that he can back up all his talk. For Poirier, it was a reason to reconsider his whole career, destroy, rebuild, and start over again in a weight class above.
Now, one year later, it is Chad Mendes who will face the Irish loudmouth at UFC 189, and the build-up is reminiscent of the days leading up to the fight against Poirier. There's trash talk, mind games, hatred. Mendes swears, he won't let McGregor get in his head. But Poirier isn't so sure that this will really work.
"It's hard to tell, 'cause in the lead-up, the process to get ready for the fight, I thought he wasn't getting in my head. And he might have been, looking back now," Poirier told MMA Fighting at UFC 189 media day. "I don't know. I wanted to hurt him, I was aggravated and mad all the time. It's hard to tell, I don't know Chad personally. He might be thinking the same thing I was thinking: 'This guy is not getting into my head, I'm ready to roll.' And then he might be looking back on it in the future, too."
Poirier feels he lost the fight versus McGregor, because he let the Irishman get under his skin with his crazy antics. A mistake, Mendes should try to avoid when he steps in the cage on Saturday. And a mistake, that Poirier would love to make up for as well. His advice to Mendes is:
"Don't fight the person", Poirier said. "I'm a thinker man, I always think and go through the fight in my head over and over again. And a lot of times I find myself being angry at him or thinking about him. You know, I'm not fighting him, who he is, I'm fighting his style of fighting and what he does in the cage. So you're not fighting all the talk and all the stuff. It'd be a different show, if I could do it again. But I learned a lot from it, and maybe, if he comes up to '45, I can crack him there."
Poirier also gave his prediction on who will win Saturday's interim title fight. And while he believes, McGregor would have beaten his original opponent Jose Aldo, he feels that Mendes is a way worse style matchup for the brash superstar.
"I think Chad is gonna win a decision", Poirier said. "Conor has very good reflexes and reactions and timing, but he's open a lot, he really is. You know, Mendes has a good right hand, and if I can touch him, and Siver can touch him, so can Mendes. He is gonna close the distance and stay on him, hit him with that overhand and put him on his back. You don't know how hard it is to fight a wrestler like that until you do it, and I don't think Conor ever has."