Justin Gaethje has been widely tipped as the man to have the next shot at the UFC lightweight crown against the winner of Sunday’s (Australian time) championship bout between Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier in Las Vegas.
But if it was up to defending champion Oliveira, the next challenger in line would be the winner of the highly-anticipated fight between No.3 contender Beneil Dariush and fourth-ranked Islam Makhachev.
The pair do battle in late February at a Fight Night event at a yet-to-be-determined location.
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“It’s a tough fight that everyone wanted to see as a fan. But I think it’s 50-50, and whoever wins should be next,” Oliveira said through a translator.
A noted wrestler and submission artist, Oliveira now views himself as the “complete MMA fighter”, having improved his striking significantly, as evidenced by his second-round TKO of Michael Chandler to win the belt at UFC 262.
“It was a message to the division. I knocked a guy out (with my) left hand,” said Oliveira, who holds the UFC record for most submission wins (14).
“But you saw what happened at the start of the fight, I turned it around … I sent a message that I can do it all.
“Everyone knows I came from jiu-jitsu and you’ve seen the evolution and that’s standing up.”
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Oliveira (31-8, 1NC) is running hot having won his last nine fights and sees his clash with Poirier (28-6, 1NC) as a great opportunity to “increase my legacy”.
“He brings a lot of things but you have seen how much I can bring into the fights,” he said.
“We understand he’s a tough and complete fighter, very strong on his boxing, brings a lot of wrestling and everyone knows he likes to take fights to five rounds.”
In 39 fights, Oliveira has never gone past the third round, but he was not concerned by Poirier’s experience in main events, with three of the former interim lightweight champion’s last seven fights going to at least a fourth round, two of which entered the fifth.
As for next year, Oliveira intends to be an active champion if he beats Poirier, and would be happy to fight as many as four times.
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