Veteran Charles Oliveira wins gold in first UFC title shot – so, who's next?
Charles Oliveira was zombie-like in his win over Michael Chandler at Saturday night's UFC 262.
In the first round of their UFC lightweight title matchup, Chandler had Oliveira in grave danger, nearly finishing the veteran Brazilian star and leaving with the lightweight strap.
But just like the undead – in every zombie movie ever – Oliveira didn't go away.
And in the second round, it was all about "Do Bronx," who came away with the TKO win.
Oliveira's journey to replacing lightweight legend Khabib Nurmagomedov as the division's undisputed champion has been a long and arduous one.
After Saturday night, he's fought in the UFC 28 times, placing him in a tie for the 10th most fights in the history of the organization. His 17 finishes are the most in UFC history, as are his 14 submission wins.
He entered the UFC at age 20, and Saturday represented Oliveira's first title shot. With the win, he's now on a nine-fight win streak, handing Chandler his first loss in the UFC in only his second UFC fight.
Oliveira and Chandler essentially stumbled upon the lightweight title fight, after former division king Nurmagomedov retired following his dominant win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October 2020, and Dustin Poirier made the decision to fight Conor McGregor in a trilogy bout after avenging a knockout loss to McGregor at UFC 178 – back in November of 2014 – at UFC 257 in January of this year.
With Khabib, Poirier and McGregor out of the mix, UFC president Dana White pit Oliveira and Chandler against each other for the vacant strap, and now that it belongs to the Brazilian submission superstar, the question is, who's next?
Poirier and McGregor will fight for a third time on July 10 at UFC 264, and the assumption is that the winner will fight Oliveira for the title, even though Dana White didn't say as much at Saturday night's post-fight news conference.
However, McGregor and Oliveira seem to be on each others' minds already, most likely for different reasons.
McGregor was on top of the MMA world on Nov. 12, 2016. That night, he TKO'd Eddie Alvarez in the second round at UFC 205, winning the lightweight belt and becoming the first UFC fighter to hold belts simultaneously in two different weight classes – McGregor was also featherweight champion at the time.
But since that night, "Notorious" has fought only three times: a fourth-round submission loss to Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, a first-round TKO win over Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 in a welterweight fight, and that TKO loss to Poirier early this year.
He never defended the lightweight strap, or the featherweight one, for that matter.
In other words, a win over Poirier in July would essentially give McGregor a shot to face Oliveira and return to the top of the division.
For Oliveira, on the other hand, a fight with Conor is not only about defending his newly acquired title, but about money.
It's well-documented that Poirier chose to fight McGregor a third time as opposed to fighting for the title because of the financial gain that comes along with facing the biggest star the sport has ever seen.
And if you're not a believer that Conor is the biggest name in not just the UFC, but in all of sports, you'd best think again.
Fans will more than likely get their answer as to what's next for Oliveira in less than two months – in other words, a little bit more than 28 days from now.
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