Wearing a label like "top prospect" is always a tricky proposition in the fighting world.
On one hand, it means people have recognized a fighter's talent or potential. But it also means an increase in expectations and makes any slip-up or loss all the more noticeable.
Two of the mixed martial artists on the preliminary card of Saturday's UFC 131 -- which airs fights at 2:50 p.m. on facebook, 5 p.m. on Spike and 6 p.m. via pay-per-view -- are poised to learn all about it.
Following blistering UFC debuts earlier this year, Dustin Poirier (9-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) and Chris Weidman (5-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) are attracting more buzz in their respective weight classes.
Poirier is 22-year-old featherweight from Louisiana who fights Jason Young (8-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) this weekend. Weidman is a 26-year-old middleweight from New York who faces Jesse Bongfeldt (15-4-1 MMA, 0-0-1 UFC).
Weidman and Poirier don't share much in common -- including their stances on receiving hype early in their careers.
"When people say I'm a top prospect, if they weren't saying that, I'd be disappointed," Weidman said. "I think I deserve that. There's no pressure that anyone could put on me because when I got into this sport, I got into it to be the best."
Poirier takes the more traditional, and perhaps more cautious, approach.
"I can't pay attention to that," Poirier said. "I train hard and prepare myself for that, but I'm still new to the UFC. I can't think about someone saying I'm a prospect or close to the top 10."
Here's how Poirier and Weidman found themselves on the cusp of potential UFC stardom.
Some of Poirier's most memorable childhood moments come from fighting.
He now looks back and laughs at some of the times he found himself in trouble for mixing it up in schoolyard-type scraps. He always told his mother he wanted to learn to box, but those requests fell on deaf ears.
"She would never take me serious or take me to an academy where I could take myself serious," Poirier said. "So one day, when I was 17, I went to a place for boxing on my own."
Poirier quickly learned that a handful of local MMA guys trained there. Poirier took an immediate interest in training with them. He was familiar with the sport from the times he and his father sneaked in viewings of the original UFC tapes without his mother's knowledge.
Poirier now says it was love at first kick. The first day he ventured into an MMA gym he learned kickboxing and decided this was his sport.
He started training under fellow Louisianan and UFC veteran Tim Creuder and turned pro less than two years later.
"I told people I was a professional fighter, but it didn't feel right," Poirier said. "I was fighting as a professional, but was I a professional? I don't know. I was making a little money, but it wasn't what I was doing to pay the bills."
After he won his first seven fights all via stoppage in less than nine minutes, Poirier got an opportunity. Zuffa, the parent company of UFC and formerly WEC, wanted him to fight Danny Castillo at WEC 50 at the Palms last August.
He lost to the lightweight veteran via unanimous decision.
"I had heard about the jitters before and I don't know if I had them," Poirier said. "I might have had them, but I was real nervous. I was doing stuff I don't normally do. I was thinking instead of fighting and thinking about the big opportunity. There were all the lights and (UFC President) Dana White was sitting there by the cage. I felt like a fan. I didn't feel like a fighter."
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