THE road to redemption has been a long one for Dustin Poirier.
'The Diamond' is ready for the biggest fight of his life as he takes on Conor 'Notorious' McGregor on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi for UFC 257 on Saturday.
But his path to potential glory hasn't been an easy one to tread.
As a wayward teen, Poirier developed his love for a scrap at high-school – driven by an anger of struggling to discover himself and his parents' divorce.
He found himself at a juvenile detention centre – and despised school to such an extent he would play truant, sometimes taking his mum's car out for a joy ride.
However, he came of age when he discovered boxing at 18 and hasn't looked back since turning professional in 2009.
Poirier was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana.
His parents split when he was just 5, and he was raised by his mother, Jere Chaisson and two brothers.
He enjoyed childhood until it was time for him to go to school, where he began to get into trouble.
At secondary school, a love for fighting appeared – he regularly got into scraps with other pupils in the school hallways.
Once, he even built a makeshift boxing ring in his dad's neigbourhood – knocking a much-older boy out and showing the kind of courage a fearless competitor needs.
However, his family insisted there was nothing malicious in his approach – he just enjoyed the combative nature of the sport.
"If somebody went down, you don't hit him again, you know?" Poirier told ESPN.
"I'm not trying to paint the picture that I'm out here like Mad Max — two men enter, one man leaves. It's not that. It was just fighting."
For Poirier, school just wasn't for him.
In fact, the moment a teacher turned their heads he was out of the school gates faster than a robber escaping a bank job.
His mum, who was a medical rep, recalled how much he hated getting an education.
She also revealed how a young Dustin once took her van for a joy ride.
"He was in first grade, maybe kindergarten, and he snuck out of school and walked four blocks to a grocery store and called 911, just to tell them he didn't want to go," Chaisson recalled.
"When he was in eighth grade, I delivered pharmaceuticals, and I had two vans, in case one of them broke down.
"I got off work early one day and was driving home, and I see my van coming down the other side of the road. And it was Dustin! He would just leave school and drive around."
Desperate for her son to finish his education, Chaisson sought out a mediator to help Poirier and enrolled him on a program that meant if he continued to skip class he would be sent to a juvenile centre.
But he didn't listen. Soon enough, Poirier was sent to the detention centre for one month.
Then, he faced a three-month stint at a military-style boot camp to fix his attitude and get him into shape.
"He said it felt like prison," Chaisson revealed.
"He would say, 'Why do you want to send your child to prison? You don't know what it feels like.' And I would say, 'I went to school for 12 years.'
"But public education isn't for everyone, and that's a hard lesson I learned."
Rebelling against his experience, Poirier dropped out of school at 15 and his future appeared bleak.
At 16, Poirier was just another high-school dropout.
The only thing he felt was good in his life was his childhood sweetheart Jolie, who he met when he was a bad boy teenager and is married to today.
He scored a job at McDonald's to make some money, and would pass the time with friends smoking and drinking. Far from the serious athlete he is today.
Ambition was something that a young Poirier seriously lacked.
"He was just kind of struggling to find himself, I guess you could say," Jolie said.
BORN TO FIGHT
Poirier had an epiphany he could become a professional fighter when he turned 18.
He discovered boxing – and would religiously attend a local gym, punching a bag daily.
It became his obsession – believing that he had what it takes to make a difference in the fight game.
Poirier lost weight, ditched the pals who were bringing him down and focused on his new goal. He even booked his first MMA fight within six months.
"I wasn't like, trying to fill a void in my life, but I had found something that really made me fill a void I didn't know I had," Poirier said.
"I was head over heels with combat. I went to sleep thinking about it. I woke up thinking about it. I worked all day thinking about it. It was who I was. I would have cut anybody off to continue. I would have done whatever it took to continue.
"I loved it. And I felt it loved me back at that moment in my life."
In 2019, Poirier topped off his meteoric rise by winning the interim Interim UFC Lightweight Championship by defeating Max Holloway.
Although he lost a title unification bout at UFC 242 to Khabib Nurmagomedov, Poirier is now coming of age as a fighter.
And judging by the journey he has taken, it wouldn't be a surprise if he takes the scalp of Conor McGregor.
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