Recently minted UFC lightweight champion, Charles Oliveira hasn’t necessarily got a preference as to who he should make his first attempted title defence against, but maintains that he must work on his striking ahead of potential showdowns against either former division gold holders, Dustin Poirier or Conor McGregor.
The Sao Paulo favourite headlined UFC 262 from the Toyota Centre in Houston, Texas earlier this month, scoring the undisputed lightweight championship against the #4 ranked, Michael Chandler in a rallying second round knockout.
The victory came as Oliveira’s ninth consecutive win, and served to catapult him to the top of the list as not just the most prolific submission in the history of the UFC, but now the most prolific finisher in Octagon antiquity outright.
It’s been a long path to Octagon gold for Oliveira — the longest path taken by any past or current titleholder, in fact, but the contenders chasing him are coming thick and fast — with the aforementioned, Poirier and McGregor hot on the heels of the Brazilian.
Headlining UFC 264 on July 10th. from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada — former interim titleholder, Poirier meets with former undisputed lightweight and featherweight champion, McGregor in a trilogy rubber match, and to the consensus, the victor is likely next in line to challenge Oliveira for the lightweight crown.
Poirier and McGregor featured in the headlining tilt of UFC 257 on ‘Fight Island’ in January in a re-run of their UFC 178 featherweight bout back in September of 2014 — with Poirier levelling the score between the two at one apiece via a stunning second round knockout success over the Dubliner.
Given the fact Poirier was first in line to challenge for vacant gold when Khabib Nurmagomedov relinquished his championship, a victory over McGregor only furthers his stakes — considering he rejected the opportunity to meet with Oliveira for the original vacant title match in favour of a third clash with McGregor.
Speaking with MMA Fighting reporter, Guilherme Cruz in a lengthy sitdown recently, Oliveira elected against naming a preferred opponent between Poirier or McGregor but maintained he would need to work on his own standup ahead of a pairing against either.
“I don’t (have a preference) because they (Poirier and McGregor) are both big names, they are both strikers,” Oliveira said. “I have to be careful and work on my standup. They are both good fighters and we’ll fight to make history. We know Conor (McGregor) sells way more (PPVs), Conor brings in more business and all that glamour, but, like I said, I’ve never fought for money. I won’t change my humbleness and respect now.“
Following his win over Chandler in Texas, Oliveira almost immediately opened as a betting underdog against both Poirier and McGregor, albeit a slight underdog against the latter in a potential showdown. And despite how the bookies see a potential bout playing out, Oliveira is ready to embrace that underdog role once again in his storied career.
“No, that makes me happy (being the underdog),” Oliveira explained. “I like being the underdog, I go there and prove it. Brother, I’ve made history ever since I got in the UFC. Every time people said I couldn’t do something, I went there and proved them wrong. When they gave me someone and said they would knock me out, I proved them wrong.“
“Every time they said someone would knock me out, they ended up beat up on the feet and shooting for takedowns,” Oliveira continued. “I show my firepower, my knockout power. I’ll tell you this, being the underdog or “the man of the hour” makes no difference to me. What matters is what you can do in there. Every time you get in there (it’s) 50-50 and whoever has the best strategy and is better prepared will win.“
Senior writer for FightBook MMA. An aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Producer of news articles, interviews, opinion features, and exclusive features such as, ‘The Fallout’, ‘The Breakdown, and, ‘This Week In MMA’.
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