Dustin (Diamond) Poirier has heard it all from (The Notorious) Conor McGregor in the buildup to UFC 178 on Saturday.
"I've never disliked somebody that much ever before," Poirier said to one of his teammates this week after running into McGregor at a Las Vegas hotel in a meeting captured by UFC cameras.
McGregor (15-2) is a charismatic Dubliner with a gift of the gab. Ranked ninth among 145-pound contenders, the Irish featherweight has won all three of his UFC fights including a first-round KO of Diego Brandao last time out in the main event of a wildly successful televised show in his hometown.
No. 5 Poirier (16-3) is a soft-spoken Louisiana native who has moved to Florida to train with American Top Team. He has a deeper record than McGregor, having won eight of 10 bouts in the UFC.
And on Saturday, he will serve as a five-foot-nine, 145-pound measuring stick for McGregor.
"Social media or my phone is blowing up every day," said Poirier. "Hundreds of messages every day. A lot of people want to see this fight and they have a good reason to."
McGregor's sharp barbs seem to have got under Poirier's skin despite his best efforts to turn the other cheek. UFC boss Dana White had to separate the two when they faced off Thursday at a media gathering, with Poirier heading towards McGregor at full steam.
McGregor, 26, is predicting a first-round knockout, with a title shot to follow. Although he tweeted this week: "I've decided I'm going to toy with him."
That's a step back from earlier McGregor Twitter boasts such as "In 3 weeks I raise his decapitated head in glory."
Poirier says he is "just being myself" by trying not to respond to McGregor's long list of taunts. But the southern gentleman approach does not mean he is not taking notice.
"I want to get up and smack him around at press conferences when he's running his mouth. But I'm a professional. I'll let him run of his mouth," Poirier said in an interview. "I feel like he might have some insecurities if he needs to talk that much. I'm not trying to prove anything to people with running my mouth. It doesn't make sense to me. I think he's doing it to make himself believe in himself. I don't know, some guys might need that. Personally I know who I am, as the man and a fighter.
"That's what I'm looking to. I'm not looking forward to press conferences. I'm looking forward to Saturday the 27th when I get to put my hands on him."
Friday's weigh-in offered another taste of the mayhem to come with McGregor, who came on stage first, edging toward the scales as Poirier stepped on them. White moved over to pull McGregor away.
Both fighters were clearly amped up and White moved in quickly after Poirier stepped off the scales and headed towards McGregor. The fighters jawed at each other as others helped keep them apart.
Saturday's main event was to have been a bad blood title bout between light-heavyweight champion Jon (Bones) Jones and Daniel Cormier. But Jones was injured in training, and flyweight title-holder Demetrious (Mighty Mouse) Johnson and Chris (Kamikaze) Cariaso took over the main event.
The popular Donald (Cowboy) Cerrone, ranked No. 5 among lightweight contenders, faces No. 14 Eddie Alvarez, a former Bellator champion, in the co-main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Poirier-McGregor is the third fight on the main card although many — including McGregor — see it as the marquee matchup of the night.
Poirier is a smart, high-energy fighter. McGregor is a fine counter-puncher who uses an array of prickly kicks to keep his opponent off balance.
The bookies have made the abrasive McGregor as high as a 3-1 favourite.
As for McGregor's jibe at a UFC 178 media day in August that his opponent is a "quiet little hillbilly from the backass of nowhere," Poirier notes that he went to the same high school as Cormier, who gets his title shot in January.
"A lot of guys came out of this area: Melvin Guillard, Rich Clementi, Tim Credeur. Just to name a few."
The 25-year-old Poirier moved to Florida to expand his training options after losing to Chan Sung Jung — better known as the Korean Zombie — in May 2012. He has won four of five since, with the lone blemish a decision loss to Cub Swanson. Poirier has won his last three, beating Akira Corassani, Brandao and Erik Koch.
Poirier believes McGregor is a self-promoter who has talked his way up the ladder.
"I built where I'm at with my bare hands," said Poirier. "That feels good to know. When I go to sleep at night, I know that and I feel good and I'm happy about it."
The Lafayette native, featured in the documentary "Fightville," is totally committed to his own title dream.
In a 2011 interview with The Canadian Press, "Fightville" co-director Michael Tucker recalled sharing a hotel room with the fighter at a film festival and seeing the fighter put on an oxygen monitor before going to sleep.
"He actually shoved tubes up his nose while he was sleeping so that his oxygen levels could be monitored, so that a custom-made breathing apparatus can be made, so while he's sleeping, his muscles are replenished correctly," Tucker said.
Poirier believes McGregor has met his match. "Now he's put himself into a very serious situation ... I'm excited. It's going to be fun to reveal the guy's true person."
McGregor seems unconcerned and punctuates his UFC 178 trail with Twitter one-liners. The former apprentice plumber loves the spotlight.
"I am in Sin City. Armed and dangerous. I am going to school this kid."
"I work hard and fight easy."
"I show up prepared to kill. Everytime."
"I love my job, what can I say. I beat people up for truck loads of cash."
Predicted Poirier: "When you look back at it, the joke's on him."
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