Striving for greatness has long been embedded in Dustin Poirier’s DNA, but along his journey, the mixed martial artist has grown accustomed to taking the path less traveled. A native of Louisiana, Poirier, who is of Cajun heritage, embodied the definition of a hot boy at an early age, dropping out of high school in the ninth grade after constantly finding himself in trouble for street fights and other mischiefs. What initially appeared to be the beginning of a fall from grace turned out to be his saving one, as Poirier would transfer his passion for pugilism into a full-time career, one that has brought him riches, fame, and a whole lot of wins since first turning pro in 2009. Following a short stint in the World Extreme Cagefighting—when the WEC was absorbed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship league—Poirier gradually rose up the ranks over the past decade, compiling a 27-6 record, with one No Contest decision.
As the top-ranked lightweight in the UFC and the sixth overall on the UFC’s men’s pound-for-pound, Poirier has taken inspiration from hometown hip-hop heroes of Cash Money Records and No Limit Records, whom he credits with helping introduce him to the genre during his youth. Along the way, Poirier’s tastes have evolved over the years, with grooves from the golden days of yesteryear creeping into his mix. Yet, his love for beats, rhymes, and life still remains as the former Interim UFC Lightweight Champion’s tone on the phone is light and informative on the eve of the fighter’s new partnership. Electronics company Samsung has embraced Poirier as a brand ambassador, making him the first MMA fighter to be bestowed with the honor.
While Poirier’s new relationship with Samsung is one that has afforded him an additional source of excitement and fulfillment, The Diamond’s (his nickname) main priority is his upcoming fight with MMA fighter Conor McGregor, whom Poirier will be facing off against this weekend (July 10), at UFC 264 in Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. First facing McGregor in a losing effort in 2014, Poirier earned one of the signature wins of his career after avenging the loss earlier this year, nearly seven years after the respective stars’ initial bout. Now, Poirier and McGregor are set to settle the score once and for all with their third fight in what is sure to go down as one of the premiere trilogies in combat sports’ recent memory. A win for Poirier could etch his name in history as one of the most accomplished mixed martial artists of his generation, a date with destiny that the champion is fully prepared for.
VIBE spoke with Dustin Poirier about his love for Hip-Hop and R&B, being a Samsung ambassador, his upcoming bout, and more.
VIBE: You’re the first MMA fighter to partner and become an ambassador for Samsung. What sparked your connection with Samsung, as a consumer and an ambassador?
Dustin Poirier: I’m excited to not only be the first MMA fighter to partner with Samsung but an actual user of Galaxy devices for a very long time. It feels good when things like this happen very organically. It’s easy to talk about and it’s easy to promote stuff when you actually use it, so it just feels good.
I heard that your own personal Samsung products have been key in helping you prepare for your upcoming fight. Which devices were you referencing and in what way did they assist you?
I mean, the list goes on, for sure. From the beginning of training camp, hopping on the Galaxy Book Pro to video-call my wife and daughter until they got out here last week, that helped me because at nights I get lonely without my girls, and just to get face-to-face is always important. But besides that, the Galaxy Watch 4, just to see what my heart rate is during strength and conditioning training, tracking to get my miles, my model time. A lot of things. Listening to my Pro Buds [for] music. The list honestly goes on and on.
You recently filmed a commercial titled “Hero” for Samsung as well. What was that experience like?
It was easy, man. I’ve been fighting for a while now, so I’ve been in front of a lot of cameras and been interviewed a lot of times, but we weren’t sitting there talking about my next opponent or talking about training camp, we were talking about life, stuff that’s kinda refreshing. To get to talk about my family and talk about how I use Samsung products in my everyday life. Of course, I am a fighter and I’m in the gym sweating to get ready for these fights most of the year, but at the end of the day, I’m a husband and a father so whenever people wanna shine some light on that side of me, I’m thankful for that.
There’s been a growing number of MMA fighters stepping into the boxing ring. How do you feel about the crossover? Is it bad for the sport or good?
That’s a tough question. I mean, these fights that they’ve been making have been getting crazy traction. I’m sure that the clicks on the internet and the views on the videos are through the roof, so it’s good to see that mixed martial arts is being more spoken about. We’re on ESPN now, we’re crossing over and doing boxing fights, it’s just the way that combat sports is heading. With the entertainment business nowadays and how everybody’s got a device to use at their fingertips and the apps to watch the fights. It’s good, man. I love seeing it, it’s like a snowball event. Every year it’s gonna keep getting bigger and bigger and that’s not just a win for mixed martial arts, but it’s a win for combat sports in general.
Would you ever consider stepping into the boxing ring?
I would love to box. Before I ever put on a pair of mixed martial arts gloves, I was in boxing gyms. And when I was a young kid, I thought I was gonna be a boxer growing up. That was my plan.
What was your introduction to Hip-Hop?
I grew up in Louisiana, so obviously, New Orleans’ music scene was big when I was a kid. No Limit and Cash Money was huge, but I also had a big influence from Texas, from Houston. Even from Port Arthur, man, like UGK to all of the Houston Hip-Hop.[artists] was a huge part of my childhood.
Who are some of your favorite artists, albums, or songs you listen to for motivation while training?
I’m more in an old-school vibe when I train. I listen to James Brown, Rick James, Isley Brothers. I’m listening to old-school, feel-good music. Just vibing, because that’s how I want my training sessions to be, I wanna be in a good state of mind. I don’t wanna be too crazy or too amped up on crazy music, I like to just flow and feel good. And honestly, as I’m getting older that’s more of the music that I’m listening to.
Have you been able to meet or build any personal relationships with rap artists during your travels?
Through social media and through the internet, I’ve been in contact with Action Bronson here and there. He’s a big MMA fan. I got to jump on Lil Wayne’s podcast, the Young Money [Radio] he does on Apple [Episode 10, July 2020]. He invited me after one of my fights to come on and talk to him, so that was kind of cool. Growing up in Louisiana and following his career for so long, that was pretty dope, man.
Being that physical combat and rap both channel a certain aggression, who are some rap artists you’d like to see in an MMA setting or you feel would do good?
[Laughs] I don’t know, that’s a tough call ’cause nowadays a lot of guys can act tough and post pictures and do videos, but you gotta really get in there to see what some of these guys are made of. But off the top of my head, I’m not really sure. I think back in the day they had a fighting video game, Def Jam Vendetta. Those guys were on there, that was crazy.
This week, you’re set to square off against Conor McGregor, whom you defeated while avenging a previous loss to him earlier this year, at UFC 264. What do you feel played the biggest difference between the outcome of the first fight and the second fight?
Just maturity, roles in the sport. I think it was six or seven years separated in time from the first fight to the rematch, so we both went our separate ways, had our ups and downs, and learned. We had a lot of hurdles to get over in fighting and in life, we both became fathers. Life changes and things go on and you become a better person from mistakes you make, victories you have, so it’s just time. I just got better with time, I understand what I’m doing more, I know where I need to be at physically and mentally leading into these fights. And I think that just my dedication to trying to get better every day is what really made the difference.
This matchup has the potential to complete one of the more iconic trilogies in combat sports in recent memory. How does it feel to be on the brink of making history?
That’s how I’m looking at it, too, man. It’s a big deal. Like you said, we both have a win over each other, this is the rubber match, this seals the deal and we move on to another chapter after this fight. And I think the MMA community and combat sports community as a whole is excited about this, to see us get back in there and do it again. I’m excited about it and I know [what] beating a guy like Conor McGregor [means]. He’s already a legend. His name is gonna live on in combat history and I know what another win over him does for my name in that history book. It cements it in that book forever and that’s what I’m after, man.
What’s next for Dustin Poirier?
Honestly, I take it one fight at a time. So just getting ready for July 10 to fight my best for 25-minutes against Conor McGregor in this third fight and as far as fighting goes, we’ll take it from there. On the morning of [July] 11 when we wake up and head to the airport, we’re gonna assess everything and see what’s next. I don’t like to look too far ahead as far as that because I know I have an important date circled on my calendar and nothing else matters until that happens. So that’s what I’m really focused on, but I’m just excited to be teaming up with Samsung and doing the things I’m doing with my foundation and companies like this, it’s exciting. Hard work pays off.