Dustin Poirier proved at UFC 257 that he is the uncrowned champion of the lightweight division. The main event of UFC 257 between Poirier and Conor McGregor should have been for a title because it met the caliber of a championship fight. The winner of the fight would have been deemed as the best active fighter in the division with current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov sidelined with his retirement announcement.
It is a foregone conclusion that Nurmagomedov will remain retired, despite UFC president Dana White encouraging him to come out of retirement for one last fight. Nurmagomedov already fought Poirier and McGregor, and according to White during his press conference on Sunday morning, he revealed a message from Nurmagomedov that he does not want to fight anyone because he is “levels above everyone else.” While that may be true, Nurmagomedov said that he does not want to hold up the future of the division.
With Nurmagomedov likely staying retired, it is time for the lightweight division to move on and put the vacant belt on the line in 2021. Fans would love to see Nurmagomedov fight one last time, but the man made a promise to his mother that he would no longer fight after his father passed away in 2020. He earned the right to go off in the sunset and enjoy retirement.
Nurmagomedov’s absence will open up a door for Poirier to fight for the title, as well as the be the premier name in the division. Poirier deserves the chance to win the undisputed belt after paying his dues in the UFC for 10 years as a featherweight and a lightweight.
He won the interim lightweight championship against Max Holloway at UFC 236 in April 2019. This was when the tide turned in Poirier’s career and he put his struggles against McGregor and Michael Johnson behind him for good. At that point in his career, he was a completely different fighter with more skills, and he was far more mature. When he claimed the interim title, he already held wins over Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje, and Anthony Pettis.
For the UFC, giving Poirier a proper chance at becoming the undisputed lightweight champion would be good for both sides. They would have the opportunity to make a family man with phenomenal discipline and principles their champion. Poirier is a big draw for the company after his TKO victory against McGregor, and there are several options for him in a vacant title fight. He could face McGregor for a trilogy fight, but it is unclear if that will happen. Other likely matchups could be a rematch for the vacant lightweight belt against the No. 1 contender Gaethje, or a title bout against the No. 3 contender Charles Oliveira.
Whichever way the UFC decides to go with Poirier’s future, it has to be for the title. Poirier already has championship experience from when he held the interim belt, and he has been in the Octagon when the lights were the brightest and the stakes were the highest. He is one of the most intelligent fighters in the promotion, and he is a champion without the title.