Uncrowned king Charles Oliveira sent a message to UFC lightweights who may have underestimated him again before UFC 274.
“This is a message to the division: I know where I came from, I know where I am, and I know where I’m going,” Oliveira told reporters via translator after his stunning first-round submission of Justin Gaethje this past Saturday. “I’m a man who’s enlightened and who’s also very focused.
“As a message to the division: You can knock me down, but I’m going to keep on pushing forward.”
Oliveira took a big knock even before he stepped into the octagon when he stepped onto the official UFC 274 scale and was ordered to give up his belt on fight night. A half-pound overage left him the No. 1 contender despite his win over Justin Gaethje, the third come-from-behind finish in what would have been his second title defense.
We were all sure that we actually made weight on Thursday, so it’s in our hands – you’re just not going to take that away from us,” Oliveira said. “I went into the octagon today to defend my title.
“We’re going to defend the title. I don’t have to get it back. The name of the champion is Charles Oliveira, and we all know that.”
Potential contenders quickly piped up after Oliveira’s win, including Michael Chandler, who knocked out Tony Ferguson in highlight-reel fashion and then cut a WWE-worthy promo that included the Brazilian, and box office king Conor McGregor, the target of the unofficial champ’s post-fight callout.
“I said upstairs that Conor McGregor would be a good fight,” Oliveira said of his in-octagon challenge to “Notorious.” “But you know, when I was seventh in the rankings, I called them all out, and none of them paid attention to me. So let the matchmakers do their thing. Let my team choose. Let them struggle to fight me.”
Gaethje, a former interim champ, didn’t struggle mightily to get another title shot with undefeated ex-champ Khabib Nurmagomedov relinquishing the belt upon retirement. A “Fight of the Year” against Chandler put him back in the No. 1 position, and he confidently predicted he would make Oliveira quit. After dropping Oliveira early, it looked like Gaethe’s prediction was on the money.
But it was all part of the plan for “Do Bronx.”
“He’s a guy who pushes forward, and I always push forward, and I knew this was going to happen,” Oliveira said. “I’m like a war tank – I keep on moving forward. I knew that I was going to get hit. I knew I was going to hit him. But … who wants it more? It all came down to who wanted it more.
“I am enlightened, and the champion is Charles Oliveira. That wasn’t going to change.”
Beltless as he may be for now, Oliveira is approaching his current status the same as before. Whomever he faces next, he will pursue the win as if it was destined.
“It’s not going to change anything,” he said. “The champion’s name is Charles Oliveira, and I’m going to keep on pushing and still go for it. I’m not going to get a new title – I’m going to defend it, and that’s pretty simple.”