Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0), the UFC's undefeated lightweight champion, is serving a nine-month suspension for his role in a postfight brawl at UFC 229 in October. Nurmagomedov could have been eligible by April 13 had he filmed an anti-bullying message in Nevada, but he has stated he does not intend to return until this fall.
The UFC has opted to create an interim 155-pound title in his absence. According to White, Tony Ferguson was offered the interim lightweight title fight against Holloway, but he turned it down. Ferguson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ESPN confirmed the fight was offered to Ferguson but it did not materialize for undisclosed reasons.
Poirier, who hasn't fought since July and voiced his frustrations with the division's status on social media earlier this week, said this bout came together quickly. He was scheduled to face Nate Diaz in November, but pulled out of the event with an injured hip. He told ESPN the UFC had informed him Diaz intended to pull out as well, which added to his frustrations in recent months.
"A lot of people blamed me for the whole Nate thing, but nobody knows what really happened besides the UFC, their lawyers, Nate's management and my management," Poirier said. "Nate was playing games. He pulled out of that fight multiple times. I had an injury and it turned into the perfect time to get it fixed."
Holloway (20-3) will hang on to his 145-pound title in the move. The Hawaiian champion is riding a 13-fight win streak and is the No. 4 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, according to ESPN.
Poirier (24-5), of Louisiana, is coming off a murderer's row of lightweight opponents, including victories over Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez. Fighting out of American Top Team, the 30-year-old has won eight of his past nine contests, with six finishes.
The two have crossed paths previously. In 2012, Poirier submitted Holloway at UFC 143 in Las Vegas at 3 minutes, 23 seconds of the opening round. That bout was Holloway's UFC debut.
"Max and I were both kids seven years ago," Poirier said. "We've both been in the UFC, fighting top competition. That's a lifetime. We're completely different fighters now, and this is a completely different fight. Max is a proven, undisputed champion at featherweight. I don't even know if he's in [his] prime yet -- he might be approaching it. He's a tough test for me, and I am for him. I have a lot of respect for Max."