Despite a seven-fight winning streak in which he finished each of his opponents, Charles Oliveira was something of an overlooked commodity in the lightweight division heading into UFC 256.
Not anymore. After dominating Tony Ferguson for three rounds, “Do Bronx” has moved to the forefront of any title discussion at 155 pounds.
“I think everything happens at the right time,” Oliveira said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “Look at the fight tonight: This is the guy everyone calls ‘The Boogeyman,’ and we went in there and we had an amazing fight. I’ve been telling everyone I’m going to be the champion. People don’t believe it, so I have to show them.”
Oliveira grounded the former interim champion with ease and dominated positioning throughout Saturday’s co-main event contest at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. He nearly finished the fight in Round 1, when a late armbar attempt had Ferguson’s arm contorted at a gruesome angle.
“He’s a really tough guy,” Oliviera said. “I even told [my coach Jorge Patino] after that first round that I thought I had broken his arm. But I wanted to win. We had a game plan set and I wanted to go in there and win at any cost.”
With eight straight victories under his belt, Oliveira now has his sights set on championship gold, and he believes that he should face the Conor McGregor-Dustin Poirier winner with the lightweight belt on the line next year. McGregor and Poirier will square off in the UFC 257 headliner on Jan. 23. Although McGregor checks more boxes as a potential “money fight,” the Brazilian doesn’t necessarily care who emerges victorious from that rematch.
“I don’t really think there is a preference,” Oliveira said. “I want to fight for the belt. That’s been my dream and my team’s dream. Obviously fighting Conor involves a lot of other things. It’s a lot of money and a lot of other things that maybe a fight with Dustin wouldn’t involve but we really want to win the belt. It really doesn’t make a difference.”
There is also the matter of determining the status of Khabib Nurmagomedov. The Dagestani star announced his retirement after vanquishing Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October, but the promotion has not vacated his belt in hopes that “The Eagle” will return to pursue a 30-0 record before he calls it a career for good. Oliveira doesn’t see a farewell bout in the cards for Nurmagomedov.
“Khabib swore on his father’s grave that he wasn’t going to come back,” Oliveira said. “When a man does that, I don’t think he’s going to come back. [Justin] Gaethje can go fight whoever. But I want the winner of Conor [McGregor] and [Dustin] Poirier.
“I have eight wins in a row. Seven of those, I finished the fight. I don’t let it go to the judges’ hands. I finish fights. I’m in the position to be fighting for the belt.”