There was likely no other fighter who was more interested in the top two fights at UFC 257 than lightweight contender Charles Oliveira.
Coming off eight straight wins — seven via submission or TKO — including an impressive triumph over former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson, the Chute Boxe fighter is confident he should face Dustin Poirier for the 155-pound belt next. Poirier, of course, knocked out Conor McGregor in Saturday’s headliner at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.
Sherdog.com spoke with Oliveira and his trainer, Diego Lima, at approximately the same time UFC president Dana White was starting the post-fight press conference on Saturday night.
"There is no other path to go. I´m coming from a sequence of eight wins. If Khabib [Nurmagomedov] returns, I'm the only one in the Top 4 that didn’t face him. It's me and him or Poirier, who did a great job against McGregor and already knocked out [Justin] Gaethje. So the only fight would make sense is myself against Khabib or Poirier.”
Nurmagomedov retired after defeating Gaethje at UFC 254 in October, and meetings with White have not persuaded the Dagestani champion to return for one more fight.
When asked about the possibility of White punishing him for allegedly not accepting a fight with Dan Hooker, Oliveira insisted that he did not receive that offer. Hooker ultimately suffered a first-round KO loss to Michael Chandler in Saturday’s co-main event.
"That offer never came to me,” Oliveira said. “On the contrary, I made myself available in case something happened with McGregor and Poirier in the week of the fight. You saw how Hooker fought against Chandler, He ran from the beginning till the end, so I have nothing to say about him.”
Oliveira has not considered the possibility of Chandler skipping the line of lightweight contenders following his impressive debut performance at UFC 257.
"Chandler did a great job proving to be a tough guy fighting in an aggressive way as he always did in Bellator, but I have no doubt that Dana White will take into consideration the recent history of the lightweight division in UFC,” Oliveira said.
Shortly after Oliveira’s statement, White indicated that Poirier could square off with Chandler in a bout for the vacant lightweight belt. Lima pointed out that White also made a few similar statements the previous week that didn’t necessarily come to fruition.
"I don’t believe Dana will make such an important decision concerning one of the most competitve weight classes in the UFC right after the event,” Lima said. “When Charles defeated Ferguson [at UFC 256], he said Charles should fight the winner of McGregor and Poirier. Later, he said if McGregor wins, he would do everything to bring Khabib back. Now he says Chandler will fight Poirier. Tomorrow morning he may have a different opinion. So I’d rather wait on an official decision to talk about that.”
Though White’s statement clearly upset him, Oliveira did his best to follow his trainer’s lead.
“I’ve been a UFC employee for 11 years. You beat eight guys in a row, you set the record for most submissions in UFC history, you beat Ferguson, who was No. 3 in the [UFC] rankings … then a guy coming from a rival organization takes your spot after beating the No. 6 ranked fighter.
“Of course it’s not fair, of course I´m not happy, but I´ll keep doing my job in order to reach my dream. In 2021, I´ll have the UFC lightweight belt around my waist. My fans can bet on that.”