LAS VEGAS – Dustin Poirier isn’t one of the fighters questioning UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira’s heart.

Top contenders Michael Chandler and Justin Gaethje have accused Oliveira of giving up in fights in the past, but Poirier (28-6 MMA, 20-5 UFC) disagrees – or at least no longer thinks it’s the case.

Oliveira (31-8 MMA, 19-8 UFC) was tested in his vacant lightweight title fight against Chandler at UFC 262, but after getting dropped and badly hurt at the end of Round 1, he rebounded in emphatic fashion by putting Chandler away just 19 seconds into Round 2.

“I’ve seen Charles in a lot of fights,” Poirier told MMA Junkie and other reporters on the UFC Hall of Fame induction red carpet Thursday in Las Vegas. “He’s been in a lot of fights at a high level, so I’ve seen him kind of fold in fights before. But I’ve also seen him rise to the occasion and show up in adversity. If he was a quitter, he had a chance to quit when Chandler hurt him – but he came back and put him away. If that shows anything – like they say, your last fight is the most important and the next fight is your most important. The guy showed a championship mentality. He showed a championship effort – got hurt, pulled it together, finished the guy. There was no quit that night.

“Charles Oliveira had a tough road, like me. He put in his work, he cut his teeth, he’s bled and clawed his way to being the world champion and he is the undisputed world champion, no doubt about it. I see a lot of hate and shade being thrown online. That’s never going to stop for anybody. But the guy has earned it. It’s inspiring to see guys like that, a guy like (Michael) Bisping, Charles Oliveira. If I can do it, I’ll put myself in the same category – guys who have been knocked down and climbed back up, never say die. Respect. I don’t know the guy personally, but I respect his journey to be world champion.”

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Poirier declared himself the “uncrowned champ” after stopping Conor McGregor for the second straight time at UFC 264 and plenty of fans have run away with it. But “The Diamond” explained the respect for Oliveira is there and he’s just having some fun with it.

“I’m not (the champ),” Poirier said. “It’s cool, it’s fun, but I’m not. Charles is the world champion, and I’m trying to be that and I have an opportunity. I have 25 minutes to make that happen, so it’s up to me.

“To be the world champion is the reason I ever put on a pair of gloves, not to make money or make a name. Everything else is great, but those are just by-products of trying to be the best, and I have another chance here. I came up short against Khabib (Nurmagomedov). I have another chance to put a gold, undisputed belt in my home and add that to my legacy, and that’s what I’m solely focused on.”

Poirier is targeted to challenge Oliveira for the lightweight title at UFC 269 on Dec. 11, where the former interim lightweight champ will get a second crack at undisputed gold.


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