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Benoit Saint-Denis reveals ‘surprise’ that Dustin Poirier accepted UFC 299 fight

Exclusive interview: The Frenchman, ranked 12th at lightweight, gets a shot at third-ranked Poirier in March

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Sunday 14 January 2024 19:17 GMT
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Benoit Saint-Denis has admitted he was ‘surprised’ that Dustin Poirier agreed to fight him at UFC 299, where the lightweights will meet in a five-round co-main event.

It was announced this week that Poirier, a former interim champion who is ranked third in the division, will face 12th-ranked Saint-Denis in Miami on 9 March.

France’s Saint-Denis made his UFC debut in October 2021 and has quickly become a fan favourite in his seven fights in the Octagon. Since suffering a decision loss in his promotional debut – the first loss of his professional career – the 28-year-old has secured five straight wins via stoppage. Yet his bout with Poirier marks a significant step-up in competition, and a significant risk for the American, who suffered a knockout loss to Justin Gaethje last time out.

“Of course I was a bit surprised that he accepted,” Saint-Denis told The Independent on Sunday (14 January). “I believe the UFC worked on that as well. The UFC is a business but also about sports. If a guy is coming off a loss, and the guys just behind him and in front of him already have a fight booked, he has to defend his rank. I thought I was going to take on Beneil Dariush, and I was surprised it ended up being Dustin Poirier.

“I believe Dustin wanted to fight in Miami, and with Mateusz Gamrot and Rafael Dos Anjos already busy fighting each other [also at UFC 299] and Beneil just coming off a loss, I think I was next in line for a match-up against Dustin. I’m very happy that the UFC managed to make the fight.” Saint-Denis also credited his manager Giom Peltier for his role in securing the bout.

“When you are inside the top 15, there are not a lot of people in front of you,” Saint-Denis continued. “I was on five finishes in a row, so I knew I was going to have a big fight against somebody in front of me. When there are fights taking place ahead of me [in the rankings], there are not a lot of people left to make one.”

Speaking about the five-round stipulation, which is typically reserved for UFC title fights and main events, Saint-Denis added: “I believe it came from both sides, as well as the UFC. Maybe he was talking about it first, but it’s a big fight, it’s a co-main event of a UFC pay-per-view, so it makes sense. I believe it will be a No 1 contender fight for the BMF title.”

The UFC’s ‘Baddest Motherf*****’ title was introduced in 2019, when Jorge Masvidal stopped Nate Diaz to win the belt. It appeared for the second time last summer, when Gaethje knocked out Poirier to collect the gold.

Dustin Poirier (left) in action against Justin Gaethje in July (Getty Images)

“There are two guys that I want to fight,” Saint-Denis said. “Of course Dustin Poirier was one of the guys, and I’m very happy he chose to fight, and we are going to have a great battle. But of course, if everything goes well, Justin Gaethje and [lightweight champion] Islam Makhachev are two guys that I want to fight.”

Elaborating on his match-up with Poirier, Saint-Denis said: “I believe fights of this level are always a matter of style, and who is going to impose his style on the other. If we have a Dustin Poirier kind of fight, it’s going to be a difficult battle, but if you have a Benoit Saint-Denis kind of fight, it will be Poirier who will be in a bad position.”

Saint-Denis last fought in November, knocking out Matt Frevola with a head kick in round one. That win improved the Frenchman’s record to 13-1, with all of his wins having come via stoppage (4 KOs, 9 submissions).

Poirier, 34, won the interim lightweight title in 2019 but failed to unify the belts against Khabib Nurmagomedov later that year, losing via submission. After Khabib retired and relinquised the title in 2020, Charles Oliveira won the vacant gold and retained it against Poirier in 2021, also by submission.

Poirier won three straight fights between those defeats – including two victories over Conor McGregor – and bounced back from his loss to Oliveira by submitting Michael Chandler. He then suffered another setback, however, with his first-round defeat by Gaethje last July.

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