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Dustin Poirier talks injuries, iconic UFC 302 photo: ‘It captures a feeling I felt in that moment’

Dustin Poirier talks injuries, iconic UFC 302 photo: ‘It captures a feeling I felt in that moment’

Earlier this month, Dustin Poirier lost to Islam Makhachev in the main event of UFC 302, falling short in his third bid to claim undisputed lightweight gold. It was a grueling fight, one that left Poirier with a broken nose, broken rib, and torn ACL. But while the outcome was unfortunate, it wasn’t all bad: At least he got a cool picture from it.

Speaking on The MMA Hour, Poirier talked about his experience at UFC 302 and the now iconic photo from his fight, showing a battered Poirier leaking blood as he continues to fight on. It’s a photo Poirier loves.

UFC 302: Makhachev v Poirier

Photo by Luke Hales/Getty Images

“When I see the photo, it doesn’t just capture a moment, it captures a feeling I felt in that moment walking towards him,” Poirier said. “One of us is going down. Feeling like, ‘I’m leaving it all out here right now, this is everything I have.’ That feeling is something special and that picture brings me to that place.”

And that place is perhaps a more harrowing one than MMA fans even realized. Poirier revealed that he broke his nose during the fight due to an inadvertent clash of heads, but the rib injury was actually something that happened during training camp, and potentially jeopardized the fight from happening in the first place.

“I busted my ribs in camp, but of course I don’t want to talk about that,” Poirier said. “I don’t think it changed anything or the way that I fought. But yeah, I smashed my ribs up bad.

“My wife wanted me to [pull out] but I wasn’t going to. … It was too close. I was already halfway thought camp. I was like, ‘I’m fighting for the belt.’ I was halfway through training camp and I’m fighting for the lightweight title, I wasn’t pulling out.”

When asked about the rib injury, Poirier insisted that it played no part in the fight, saying that while he feels it now, he only felt it once during the bout.

“The only time I felt them in the whole fight was maybe in the third round, whenever he had a body triangle, close to my corner, and he tried to mount me with the body triangle,” Poirier said. “He was trying to mount while he still had the lock and all the pressure kind of twisted my body. That’s the only time I really had to protect myself on instinct because I felt the ribs hurting. But other than that, no problem.”

The problem, Poirier insists, was with Makhachev himself. Poirier says the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world was simply too good. That, not the myriad injuries, is why Poirier didn’t get his hand raised.

“I knew it was going to be a tough fight,” Poirier said. “These style of fights are the toughest for me, guys who are going to chain wrestle and keep the fight slower. I do better in a brawl. Or even somebody who is going to exchange and plant their feet and throw punches with me, that’s where I find ways to win. This was a tough fight to try to take advantage of openings when he’s on the back foot and I’m kind of chasing. It was just a tough style for me.

“But he was everything I thought he was going to be. He’s the champ. I knew he was tough. I knew he was going to be strong, I knew he had grit. You don’t get in the position he’s in by not having all of those things. You have to have everything, and it was exactly what I thought it was going to be.”

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