UFC 242: Dustin Poirier relishing underdog role as he aims for 'greatness' against Khabib Nurmagomedov in Abu Dhabi

The two meet in a lightweight unification bout in the main event of the card at The Arena on Yas Island on September 7

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 13:  (L-R) Max Holloway punches Dustin Poirier in their interim lightweight championship bout during the UFC 236 event at State Farm Arena on April 13, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
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Dustin Poirier says he is ready to achieve greatness as he seeks to become the first man to defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov when the two clash in Abu Dhabi next week – an opportunity he declared he will not let slip through his fingers.

The American, 30, goes up against the unbeaten Russian at UFC 242 on September 7 in their headline lightweight unification fight, which takes place at the newly constructed The Arena on Yas Island.

It marks the promotion’s return to the UAE capital for the first time in five years.

Unbeaten in his past six bouts, Poitier defeated compatriot Max Holloway in April to land the interim belt and set up the meet with lightweight champion Nurmagomedov, who boasts a blemish-free record of 27 victories from 27 professional fights. Poirier, meanwhile, has 25 wins from 31 pro outings.

And, with little more than one week to fight night, "The Diamond" says he is intent on grasping an opportunity of a lifetime.

“It means everything to me,” Poirier said during a conference call early on Wednesday. “How many times in our lives or in our careers do we have a chance to really do something great?

“These guys are building an arena for us to compete in; I’m travelling across the world in the biggest fight that I can get possible, and going out there to do something that’s never been done.

“I have an opportunity for greatness and I’m approaching it that way and I’m very excited about all of this. I can’t wait, honestly. I’m very anxious to get the fight week rolling.”

Given his record and profile, Nurmagomedov goes into the bout as favourite and should enjoy the majority of support, too.

The Dagestan native, considered by many the greatest wrestler in UFC history, is a devout Muslim and regular visitor to the UAE.

Poirier, though, insists the underdog status will not faze him.

“I’ve been counted out a lot of times,” he said. “This is just another fight where people are counting me out once again, and for good reason, right?

"The guy is undefeated, we’re travelling across the world into a place where we would say he’s more favoured there, but I’m embracing this.

“I’m going to go out there and do what hasn’t been done and put a loss on Khabib’s record for all the underdogs across the world.

"I’m going to show that if you believe, if you work hard enough, if you’re focused enough, if you’re determined enough, in that 25 minutes you can be great.

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 13:  (L-R) UFC President Dana White places the interim lightweight championship belt on Dustin Poirier after defeating Max Holloway in their interim lightweight championship bout during the UFC 236 event at State Farm Arena on April 13, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Dustin Poirier became UFC's interim lightweight champion in April and now faces Khabib Nurmagomedov in an unification bout at UFC 242 on September 7 in Abu Dhabi. Getty

“I have a real opportunity to be great, with everyone watching and do something that’s never been done. And I will not let this slip through my fingers.”

Nurmagomedov, also 30, has not fought since last October’s submission victory against Conor McGregor in Las Vegas, when a post-bout brawl resulted in his nine-month suspension and a US$500,000 (Dh1.83 million) fine.

In contrast, Poirier competed as recently as five months ago – the decision win against Holloway – although he doesn’t anticipate Nurmagomedov’s inactivity to be a factor.

“It’s more of an individual thing - everyone is different,” Poirier said. “Ring rust is a thing people toss around, but it’s more individualised. It depends how hard you’re working in the gym and how focused you are and how ready to compete you are.

“And I believe Khabib is one of the guys who works year round and is always working on his craft. I think he’s going to be the best he’s ever been come September 7."

Poirier added: "I’m excited to be part of this show, to be headlining this show. This is a monumental fight in my career and in mixed martial arts history. It’s just amazing. I love the story; I love the path that I had to take to get here.

"Dreams come true if you work your butt [sic] off and chase your dreams. You can do whatever you set out to do and, right now, I've set out to defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov on September 7."