Dustin Poirier Admits Mental Health Struggles After Huge Justin Gaethje Defeat

"We’re in the spotlight - of being tough guys all the time - but we’re people, too."

Dustin Poirier Admits Mental Health Struggles After Huge Justin Gaethje Defeat


Dustin Poirier shone like a diamond at UFC 299 but nobody knew that, behind closed doors, the former interim champ was struggling just to make it to fight night...

Dustin Poirier rallied from a slow start to knock out Frenchman Benoit Saint-Denis in the second round of the co-main event of the UFC 299 event held at the Kaseya Center in Miami last Saturday night. But while the entire UFC community celebrated Poirier’s emphatic win, he revealed that the lead-up to UFC 299 was far from an easy one.

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Image: Getty

During his appearance on MMA journalist Ariel Helwani’s podcast, Poirier admitted that he went through very dark moments since his loss to Justin Gaethje at UFC 291 in July 2023.

“After the Gaethje fight, I went through some real…the world doesn’t know it, people don’t know, people who are close to me know…I went through mental struggles, man. I was going through some stuff. And that’s when I really started practising mindfulness and setting my intentions and just trying to be grateful for every day.”

“I actually started going to therapy after the [Gaethje] fight. I think it’s important to open up and talk about how you feel. We’re in the spotlight – of being tough guys all the time – but we’re people, too. That’s the part of the mindset – like Dustin the fighter, but what about Dustin? What about me? Life is deep, man. Fighting is just something I do. It’s good to tap into yourself, to check in on yourself.”

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Helwani then asked Poirier how bad it was and Dustin said it was “really bad” that he went to a point where he thought he would never fight again. The former interim UFC lightweight champion admitted that he was worried for his well-being.

Poirier was on top of the MMA world when he recorded back-to-back stoppage wins over the iconic Conor McGregor in 2021. He challenged and lost to Charles Oliveira for the UFC lightweight title at UFC 269 and then bounced back with a sensational submission win over former Bellator lightweight king Michael Chandler at UFC 281.

But in his previous appearance against Gaethje, The Diamond suffered his first knockout loss since 2016. Although Poirier earned a reported $1.47 million for that bout, the loss hit hard on Poirier as he lost for the second time in three bouts.

Image: Getty

At the start of this year, many were shocked to see Poirier accept a fight against the unranked and dangerous Saint-Denis. But as Poirier said, he wanted to see where his hunger was still at so he took a bout where he had nothing to gain and everything to lose.

During his post-fight interview, Dustin also said he accepted the fight because he wanted to give back to the sport, recalling the opportunity Eddie Alvarez gave him in 2018 that led to his rise in the UFC.

Last Saturday, Poirier turned in a performance for the ages, stopping the rising French prospect in sensational fashion after struggling all fight long. UFC President Dana White called Poirier’s performance ‘the stuff legends are made of’ and for Dustin, that victory might have earned him a title shot against Islam Makhachev.