This is number seventy-five in Jack’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature top-ten UFC featherweight, Dustin Poirier. Poirier is well-known to MMA fans because of his history of great fights and his starring role in the MMA documentary "Fightville." His next scheduled fight is against Eric Koch, at UFC 164, on August 31st, in Milwaukee. It should be an exciting matchup of two of the division's most dangerous young fighters. Please enjoy the conversation below.
Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts/combat sports, and how did it become more than just a hobby for you?
DP: I wrestled when I was younger, for about a year and a half. I really liked the one-on-one competition. My first experience with martial arts was when I went to a kickboxing school and met my first coach. I was seventeen. And then it kind of went from there.
JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, a knockout win back in 2009, and how prepared do you feel you were at the time?
DP: I thought I was prepared to fight anybody, but looking back now, I've come such a long way. For the level of guys I was fighting, I was definitely prepared. I trained hard and I always had my eye on the prize. It was an awesome experience the first time making money fighting and putting money in the bank. Coming home to my wife with a paycheck was kind of fun.
JB: Prior to making your major promotional debut in WEC, you were an undefeated 7-0. You lost your WEC debut to the veteran, Danny Castillo, by decision, in a fight at lightweight. How did that fight compare to your earlier fights and how did you react to that first loss?
DP: There was a lot more media, more traveling, and a lot more pressure with being in the spotlight, but it was a great experience. It got me ready for the bigger fights. I had never seen that caliber of competitor and wrestler until I got into the big show. It just let me know where I was and what I needed to work on. I felt like it was the end of the world every time I'd lose. I still do feel like that sometimes. It was part of growing.
JB: In your next fight, you fought again in WEC at lightweight and won. Then WEC and the UFC merged, you dropped to featherweight, and you won your first four fights in the UFC. Though you've lost two of your last three, it has been to the division's top contenders, Cub Swanson and "The Korean Zombie," Chan Sung Jung. So at featherweight, and in the UFC, you are an excellent 5-2. Of your great fights in the promotion thus far, which do you feel are your most satisfying performances?
DP: The performance I'm most proud of was when I fought Pablo Garza. I felt really composed. I felt that my kickboxing was perfect, and I felt like my Jiu-Jitsu was too. Everything was just clicking that night.
JB: Your next scheduled fight is against Eric Koch, at UFC 164, on August 31st, in his "backyard" in Milwaukee. What do you think of that matchup and the tough Roufusport fighter, Koch?
DP: I'm excited to go out there behind enemy lines and do work. I feel like I'm more prepared than I've ever been. I'm in a comfortable place with myself and with fighting right now, even with coming off a loss against Cub Swanson. I didn't have time to prepare for that fight. I kind of jumped into it when his opponent got hurt. Four weeks wasn't long enough. Looking back at it now, I probably shouldn't have taken the fight. It was another learning experience. Sucks to have another loss on my record.
I'm growing as a fighter and I'm growing in this sport. I'm prepared to beat Eric Koch anywhere that the fight goes. Whether we kickbox, or we wrestle, or we hit the ground and do Jiu-Jitsu, it doesn't matter to me. I feel like I'm better than him everywhere. There's no pressure for me going behind enemy lines to fight him. We can set the cage up at his family reunion and I'll beat him up. It doesn't matter to me.
JB: Who are some of the other fighters in the sport that you respect or admire most, and who are some of the ones that you would most like to fight?
DP: I respect great fighters like Demetrious Johnson, guys who mix it up very well with the stand-up and the ground work. It's like mixed martial arts is its own art now. Guys are just complete fighters now. It's not like they're just good at boxing or wrestling. They're good at everything and those are the kind of guys that I respect. Georges St-Pierre, Demetrious Johnson, Dominick Cruz are guys that are good everywhere and make really smooth transitions.
For guys that I'd like to fight, of course I'd like to fight Korean Zombie again and Cub Swanson. Those guys are at the top of my hit list. I want those rematches. I can beat both those guys.
JB: You were one of the central figures in the very enjoyable, slightly offbeat, fight documentary, "Fightville." How do you feel about having that part of your life documented for everyone to see, and what has been the reaction of people around you concerning the film?
DP: I haven't heard any negative comments about the film. I feel like the film captured me well. It shows who I really am. I work hard and I really care about fighting. Everything I do is to become a better fighter. I'm dedicated to this and I want to be the best. The film shows that I think. It has been all good responses. It's cool to see those years. The film actually took three years of filming that started when I was an amateur fighter. The guy who made it was from New York, and he would come down for a month at a time, so it took a while. It got me comfortable in front of cameras and those moments will be on film for the rest of my life. My kids will be able to show that to their kids. That piece of me will be left behind forever.
JB: Part of the film centered on the extremely important relationship between you and your friend and coach, Tim Credeur. Since last fall, you have been training at American Top Team. How has that move been for helping you to evolve as a fighter, and have you been able to keep in touch with Tim?
DP: I talk to Tim probably every other week or so. We keep in touch. Every time I fight, I go back home to Louisiana and I train at his gym while I'm there. We're still very good friends and he's definitely still a coach of mine. In December I got my brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu under Tim Credeur and he's still a great friend.
My move to American Top Team was needed. I'm surrounded by killers over here and great coaches. It's just a change of scenery. I feel like I'm really growing as a fighter. In my last fight against Cub Swanson, I didn't get to show my improvements. So this next fight is going to be a real eye-opener for everybody.
JB: What else do you enjoy outside of training and fighting, and who are the individuals who have supported you most in life?
DP: I like to eat. I like to cook. I pretty much just hang out with my wife. We go bowling a lot. We go to the movies. We go biking. There are some nice trails here in Florida. They have some really nice parks out here. I'm just a normal guy.
My mom has always been supportive of me since I was an amateur fighter. She knew that this dream was a possibility and she believed in me 100%. So did my wife. My wife and I have been together a long time. September 4th is going to be our four year anniversary. We've been married for four years, but we've been together since middle school. She's been with me through the ups and downs, the good and bad days, and she really helped mold who I am today. She's a great person.
JB: Last question, Dustin, and thanks for taking the time to do this. What does it mean to you to be a fighter and how much do you enjoy it?
DP: This is a job, where it takes so much out of you and it takes such dedication, that if you don't enjoy it, you can't do it. You won't be successful. I just take this fight game one day at a time. I used to feel that every fight was going to be, like I said, the end of the world or make or break. I think as I'm growing up I'm looking at it like it's not the end of the world.
I love this. That's why I do it. I'm going to go out there and perform. I know I give it my all in the gym. So I'm just leaving it to that, my training and my dedication, and I'm going to go out there and fight. To be at the top level, and to be in the UFC, that means everything to me. To be able to provide for me and my wife by fighting means everything to me. I'm just excited to be here and be at this point, at this age, in my career. I feel like I have a long run ahead of me, a lot more fights ahead of me, and my better fights are ahead of me. So I'm just excited about the future and taking this fight game one day at a time.
Thank you so much for reading and please follow @DustinPoirier and Jack Brown on Twitter.
Visit JackJohnBrownMMA on Facebook for links to all of Jack’s past interviews. Previous interviews include: Dan Hardy, Rose Namajunas, Joe Lauzon, War Machine, Tom Lawlor, Bas Rutten, Chris Leben, Phil Baroni, Julie Kedzie, Michael Bisping, Duane Ludwig, Sara McMann, Matt Lindland, Duke Roufus, Pat Miletich, Jens Pulver, Dan Severn, Nate Quarry, Ken Shamrock, Matt Serra, Jeremy Horn, and dozens more.
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