Oliveira ‘ready’ if Khabib returns
Brazil’s Charles Oliveira has vowed to “shock the world” when he faces Russian rival Islam Makhachev for the vacant lightweight title at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi later this month – and insists he would be “ready” for Khabib Nurmagomedov if the MMA icon ever reversed his retirement decision.
Oliveira is bidding to recapture the lightweight UFC crown which he was stripped of when weighing in heavy before his last fight against Justin Gaethje in May.
Standing in his way is Dagestan’s Makhachev – a man often described as the “protege” of teammate, friend and trainer Khabib.
Makhachev is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Khabib, who famously retired unbeaten in 2020 after extending his unblemished career to 29-0 with victory over Gaethje in Abu Dhabi.
As the clock ticks down to the highly anticipated match-up on October 22, Oliveira was asked by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto if he sees Makhachev – who is unbeaten in his last 10 Octagon outings – as his toughest assignment yet.
“No,” came the curt response from the Brazilian.
“He’s a protege of Khabib, he carries that weight on his shoulders. I didn’t choose fights, I just got on with them, and this is what we’re going to do. It’s a different story,” added Oliveira, via translation.
When questioned if the “presence” of Khabib in Makhachev’s camp would be a factor, the 32-year-old was equally dismissive – noting that he would be prepared to face Khabib himself, even if a return from retirement for ‘The Eagle’ was unlikely.
“The fight is against Islam, whenever [Khabib’s] willing to get back, I’ll always be ready,” said Oliveira
“Honestly, I don’t think he’s going to fight again… he’s retired, he’s done, and I respect that.”
Oliveira enters the showdown with Makhachev on an 11-fight unbeaten streak, which includes capturing the lightweight title by defeating Michael Chandler in May 2021.
‘Do Bronx’ defended the crown with a pulsating victory over Dustin Poirier in December, before losing his title on the scales ahead of the contest with Gaethje – a fight he still went on to win via first-round submission.
Asked what he would do against Makhachev, Oliveira was clear with his message.
“I’m going to shock the world yet again,” vowed the Sau Paulo native.
“I’m going to do that in the first round… I’m going to show that my background, the number of fights, this will come to show, in this sense I will shock the world.”
Oliveira and Makhachev meet in the main event of UFC 280 on ‘Fight Island’.
Elsewhere on the card, Russian former bantamweight champion Petr Yan will be seeking to rebuild towards another title shot as he faces colorful American Sean O’Malley.
Current bantamweight king Aljamain Sterling – who outpointed Yan in their title rematch in April – defends his belt against former 135lbs ruler TJ Dillashaw in the co-main event.