Charles Oliveira: ‘Easy math’ shows he should fight for vacant UFC belt

Charles Oliveira

Charles Oliveira eyes a shot at the UFC lightweight title after Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement. | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Charles Oliveira is riding the longest winning streak in the UFC lightweight division now that Khabib Nurmagomedov has announced his retirement from the sport, and “do Bronx” believes that alone should be enough to grant him a shot at the belt that will become vacant.

“The Eagle” decided to hang up his gloves after his most recent title defense in Abu Dhabi, a second-round submission over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. Oliveira admits he wondered how the Russian would perform after the death of his father and mentor Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, and was impressed by how he was able to dominate the interim titleholder.

Nurmagomedov retires undefeated in 29 professional bouts and cements his place among the best MMA fighters of all times alongside Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva in Oliveira’s list, and the throne is now vacant.

The UFC has yet to announce who will compete for the undisputed title next, and the Brazilian believes he’s the obvious choice.

“For everyone that loves fights or makes a living out of this, MMA reporters, that’s easy math,” Oliveira said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I have the longest winning streak today, I don’t leave it in the hands of the judges, I finish them all. Everyone ranked ahead of me is coming off a loss (in the division). The only exception is Dustin Poirier. I think it’s only fair that I’m the next challenger, that I have a chance to fight for the belt.

“I know I’m No. 6 today and I know there are a lot of fighters ahead of me. Like I said, Dustin Poirier is coming off a win. Conor McGregor said he retired and now he’s booking a fight with Dustin Poirier. We don’t know who should be the other guy, but I think I deserve this. It’s seven in a row, not one, and I don’t go the distance. I just need an opportunity.

“But it’s not up to me or my team, it’s up to the UFC to look and analyze — but if they do it right, they’ll see it’s 10 years in the UFC, a 10-year road, and I’ve never turned down any opponent. This is my moment.”

Oliveira campaigns to face “anyone ranked ahead of me” in a title bout next after scoring wins over Kevin Lee, Jared Gordon, Nik Lentz, David Teymur, Jim Miller, Christos Giagos and Clay Guida since June 2018, “but I think the belt will be on the line between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor.” The yet-to-be-announced bout is expected to go down in January.

“It’s not only fighting now, it’s business, it’s money,” Oliveira said of the possibility of Poirier-McGregor crowning the new lightweight king. “It does bother me, I wanted the opportunity, but it’s not only up to me. I have to wait for my moment. I’ll make it happen. I’m No. 6 and no one ranked ahead of me wants to fight me. It will happen one day and I’ll prove my worth.”

If the Poirier vs. McGregor rematch ultimately gets scheduled for a five-round championship contest, Oliveira welcomes any other top-5 opponent for his next bout.

“Justin Gaethje, Dan Hooker, Tony Ferguson, I want to fight someone ranked ahead of me,” Oliveira said. “Charles Oliveira is ranked No. 6 now. Between No. 1 and 5, (bring) any of them. Dan Hooker said he’d fight in late-November and we’re almost in November now. I’ll fight him, no problem at all. I don’t want to fight someone ranked below me. I’ve been saying this since the beginning of the year. I’m not asking for too much.”

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