Benoit Saint Denis eyes UFC fights in Manchester and Paris, ‘more determined than ever to become the champion’

Benoit Saint Denis wants to restart his climb to the top of the lightweight division, and is hoping to fight twice on European soil in 2024.

The French lightweight, who recently lost to Dustin Poirier at UFC 299, returned to competition on May 18 in his native Paris with a unanimous decision win over fellow UFC fighter Marc Diakiese in a grappling contest at ADXC 4. Speaking with MMA Fighting ahead of the match, Saint Denis said, “I want to stay active and I want to fight as soon as possible.”

“I don’t know if it’s going to be [Manchester on July 27 at UFC 304], I don’t know if it’s going to be Paris [on Sept. 28],” Saint Denis said. “But my manager is doing great work, he’s working with the UFC to find the best place for me to compete. And I want to climb the rankings and get at the top. I feel like I do belong there. … In my last fight, I had a lot of stuff going on, but I’m more determined than ever to become the champion. I need to work a lot and I’m ready to do it. I’m on my way. I’m just waiting for the next opportunity.”

Saint Denis fought on the main card of UFC Paris in 2023 and beat Thiago Moises via second-round TKO. He loves the idea of once again entering the octagon in France.

“If I can be on both cards, I will be on both cards,” Saint Denis said. “If it’s going to be just Paris, it’s great as well. It’s a great opportunity. I just want to fight. I just want to show that I’m the best. And for that, I need a tough opponent. So I’m waiting for the UFC to work with my manager to find a matchup that everybody will want to see, and that will prove who is the next future contender.”

Saint Denis finished five opponents in a row after cutting down to lightweight before his loss to Poirier. Now he wants UFC to throw the highest-ranked athlete possible in front of him, so he can prove he’s a force to be reckoned with in the division.

“The names that are interesting to me the most are in order of the placement: [Islam] Makhachev No. 1, [Arman] Tsarukyan No. 2, Justin Gaethje, Poirier, all those guys,” Saint Denis said. “But, of course, you need to earn that. I will fight anybody that the UFC is going to give me, but I want to fight as high as possible.”

Poirier earned a shot at 155-pound champion Makhachev on June 1 at UFC 302 after his win over Saint Denis.

Saint Denis likes Poirier’s chances, but ultimately sees Makhachev as the favorite to win.

“It’s a great fight,” Saint Denis said. “Dustin Poirier is a very composed and experienced fighter. I do believe he has boxing on his side, but Makhachev is very well-rounded. I do believe he has watched my fight against Poirier, as well as Dustin’s fight with [Charles] Olivera. Everybody knows what the game plan is going to be. It’s going to be Makhachev trying to submit Poirier, and Poirier trying to knock out Makhachev.

“Makhachev [has] a bit more options. Makhachev can knock out or submit Poirier. But I see Poirier only having the knockout win eventually, and decision-wise, I also see Makhachev having the physicality to dominate the fight if it goes long. We will see who will win this fight. It’s an interesting fight anyway.”

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