UFC lightweight Dustin Poirier has praised former opponent Conor McGregor and backed the interim featherweight champion to triumph against full title holder Jose Aldo in their unification bout in December.
"It's a really competitive fight and hard to call but I think Conor will win using footwork and striking," The Louisiana native predicted in an interview with Sky Sports.
Poirier was arguably McGregor’s first upper echelon opponent in the promotion, and the Irishman went on put in a statement performance by knocking him out in the second minute of the first round.
"Conor is definitely the real deal. I've had 22 fights and I've never been put out like that. There are a lot of reasons why it went wrong for me, but he was just better that night,” Poirier said.
"I don't believe in calling shots 'lucky' because he threw it, I moved, and I got hit by it. It was a well-placed, well thought-out punch that he threw. It hit me and I went down early.”
McGregor is possibly as famous for his verbal sparring as his battles inside the ring and traded insults with Poirier throughout the build up to their September 2014 fight.
The five-time UFC event bonus winner has admitted that he allowed the Irishman to get inside his head and affect his performance inside the octagon.
"I was very emotional, just because of everything that had gone on between me and Conor,” he said.
“The build-up to the fight between us made me fight emotionally, rather than relaxed, which is how I like to fight."
Poirier was riding a three-fight win streak at the time of the defeat, but has since vacated the featherweight division entirely and moved up to lightweight.
McGregor plans to do the same in the near future and could even make the jump after his bout with Aldo.
Poirier will take on Joseph Duffy, another Irishman and the last fighter to defeat McGregor (Cage Warriors, 2010), in the headline bout at UFC Fight Night 76 in Dublin in October.
The 26-year-old says he would love another shot at McGregor, whether at featherweight of lightweight, and insists the result will be different this time.
"I am 100 percent willing to fight Conor again, because the first time, we didn't really get the chance to fight," Poirier said.
"He hit me with a good shot and I went down. I'd love to do it again. It would be a different fight at 145 pounds, and definitely if he comes up to 155.
"I wouldn't get hit with that shot again, and I wouldn't let myself get so emotional. I know I could beat him – I'm a better fighter than I showed last time.
Poirier has recorded first round knock-out wins over Carlos Diego Ferreira and Yancy Medeiros in both of his fights in 2015 since moving up to lightweight.