The two fan-favorite lightweights collide in the much-anticipated headliner of the July 29 pay-per-view in Salt Lake City, with the promotion’s BMF title on the line. The bout is a rematch of MMA Fighting’s 2018 Fight of the Year, which saw Poirier become only the second man ever to knock out Gaethje, capping off an instant classic with a hellacious fourth-round finish in his Gaethje’s home state of Arizona.
Gaethje and Poirier have remained fans of one another ever since, and in their first face-to-face interview since the rematch was booked, Gaethje applauded Poirier not only for his victory in their first fight, but also for who “The Diamond” has added to his résumé since.
“It was a great learning experience. Tons of respect for the dude,” Gaethje told retired champ Daniel Cormier on DC & RC. “He’s a dog, and what he’s done to [Conor] McGregor the last couple fights was super impressive. I always love to see that dude get broken.
“So this guy’s a dog and I know I’m going to have to be perfect. I know that there’s no need for animosity. We’re two of the best, most violent athletes in the sport. We both love what we do. We both love the carnage and we’re both content with what we’re about to put ourselves through. It’s all preparation. He’s super confident. I’m super confident coming off this last win. And again, this card is stacked. It’s going to be an electric night.”
Poirier, 34, has racked up a 6-2 record since his win over Gaethje, highlighted by a pair of blockbuster TKOs of Conor McGregor. His only two losses over that time have come in shots at the UFC lightweight title against Khabib Nurmagomedov and Charles Oliveira.
Gaethje, 34, likewise, is 6-2 in the UFC since his setback to Poirier. He, too, has only lost in failed shots at the lightweight title against Nurmagomedov and Oliveira.
Both men have consistently been in title contention and are two of the most ravenous bonus collectors in entire lightweight division. That’s why both agree that UFC 291 marks a rare instance in which not an ounce of trash talk is needed to sell the event.
“[My respect for Gaethje] came from spending over 20 minutes in the octagon with him, bleeding,” Poirier said. “But I’m a fan of his. Anytime he fights, I’m going to watch. He’s the kind of fighter I like to watch. He puts it all on the line every time, and those are the kind of fights that I want to be involved in. So that’s why this fight is exciting to me. But I’ve ran into Justin a few times since we’ve fought and he’s always been straight up. The [animosity] with [Michael] Chandler was because I think he’s fake, but Justin seems real to me.”