When Dustin Poirier steps into the Octagon to face a surging Diego Brandao at UFC 168 on December 28th, he's not looking at a fighter coming into the fight riding a three fight win streak. He's not even looking at him as a fighter.
"He's an enemy," said Poirier. "He's the enemy and I have fifteen minutes to finish him. And I'm going to give him plenty of ways out. I am the better fighter. My skills are more polished every time I step into the cage, and I'm excited to show the world my growth, put another win between me and that Cub Swanson loss, and work my way up."
Ranked sixth in the division, Poirier pummeled his way to a unanimous decision victory over a game Erik Koch at UFC 164. But like most fighters, "The Diamond" thinks more about the ones he lost than the ones he's won.
"I want to avenge all my losses but I want Swanson way more than the Zombie (Chan Sung Jung)," Dustin said on his way home after training alongside fellow UFC 168 fighter Gleison Tibau at the American Top Team gym in Coconut Creek, Florida.
"With the Zombie, I was 100 percent prepared for that fight. I had a great camp. I was as prepared as my resources at the time could have prepared me, and he beat me. I showed up to fight that night and he actually beat me. But with Cub I beat myself. I took the fight on short notice. I cut thirty pounds in a week. That was a low point because I was living in Florida and my wife was still in Louisiana and I was driving myself crazy being alone. I took the fight because I got the call and I'm a fighter, but Cub Swanson didn't beat me that night, I beat myself."
Having his wife home with him now in South Florida, where Poirier moved to join American Top Team with the likes of Mike Brown, Thiago Alves, and Cole Miller, has made a big difference in his mindset as he prepares for Brandao. > Watch: Poirier Cuts Weight the Hard Way
"I go to the gym and these are my friends, but I don't know anyone in South Florida, I don't have any friends," he said. "I've been hanging out with my wife since middle school, and she thinks I'm the best fighter in the world. Having my wife with me is great because she is my best friend. I'm with her every day, I talk with her every day. She helps me relax so I'm not just thinking about fighting 24 hours a day, every day. I drove myself crazy before the Swanson fight without her."
Poirier is no stranger to the pressure that comes with being in the UFC's glaring spotlight.
By the time he had just second UFC fight against Jason Young in June 2011, dedicated fight fans were already familiar with the young prospect from Lafayette, Louisiana thanks to "Fightville," a documentary that chronicled the lives of several fighters under UFC veteran Tim Credeur.
In the movie, Poirier is seen as a hungry, disciplined amateur with the world his to take. It's a testament to Poirier's drive that he has yet to let that potential captured nearly seven years ago on film go to waste. > Watch: Poirier in Fightville
"It's still cool to run into people who say 'I saw Fightville,' says Dustin. “I was still an amateur when they filmed it so long ago but people are just seeing it now and it's fresh for them, but it doesn't add any pressure. I'm still just working really hard and I'm happy that people who watch the documentary get to see that I had a good work ethic even back then. Now that I'm a professional fighter and I'm with other pros day in and day out, that work ethic has only gotten stronger. There's no pressure from the film that I don't already put on myself. This camp has been nothing but good vibrations for me."
That's not a good place to be if you're Diego Brandao, who won TUF when he tapped Dennis Bermudez with an armbar at The Ultimate Fighter 14 finale.
Since then, he's dispatched the likes of Joey Gambino, Pablo Garza and Daniel Pineda for a string of three in a row, but Poirier doesn't mind being cast as the spoiler in this episode.
"I don't even look at it that way," he said. "I look at it as he's in my way. I have definitely faced the tougher competition in the UFC and I have more fights than him in the UFC. The level of competition I've faced is higher. I have more wins than he does in the UFC. I'm really confident going into this fight. It would be good to start another win streak and start 2014 on the right foot. Getting my seventh win in the UFC featherweight division is my ticket to fighting for a belt in 2014."
With UFC legend BJ Penn making his way down to 145 to face a third match with his kryptonite, Frankie Edgar, the division is getting crowded for guys like Poirier, but like everything else, "The Diamond" has a healthy perspective on the latest fighter to shed some pounds for more UFC glory. > Watch: Poirier's Favorite UFC Moment
"It gives guys like me a chance to get a win over a legend, so I'm good with everyone cutting down to featherweight. Come on down."