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Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

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‘Cowboy’ Oliveira: From bull rider to UFC contender

Alex Oliveira became a top welterweight two years after signing with the UFC, but his journey to the sport was a troubled one. From the disappointment in his failed attempt to become a bull rider to drug addiction, “Cowboy" had to overcome many battles before succeeding in the Octagon.

Oliveira was always one of those kids that wouldn’t stand still. Born in Tres Rios, a small town in the mountains, 90 miles away from Rio de Janeiro and surrounded by large farms, it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the animal life. Some of his friends had their own horses, but his family barely had money for food, so owning a horse was a privilege they couldn’t afford.

Oliveira’s destiny started to change in 1993. The five-year-old kid had the chance to ride a horse for the first time, and he wouldn’t stop there.

"I was not an easy kid, so I would ride everyone’s horses, goats, calfs, donkeys… I’d ride everything,” Oliveira says with a laugh. "I had no fear, so I was always getting hurt. My mom, Simonete, was always telling me not to do it, but no one could stop me. If you give me little space, I was gone."

Oliveira started to work in farms when he was 12. That was his way of staying closer to animals. Simonete knew he wasn’t interested in going to school or anything like that, so she gave him a piece of advice that he follows until these days.

"My mom always said, ‘if you want something, you have to work for it,’” Oliveira says. “She knew I didn’t want to study, so I had to work to buy my stuff and help her at home."

The young boy would do whatever he was asked to. Rescue cows that escaped during the night, feed the animals, remove animal feces… anything. He would do everything he could in exchange of a few bucks per month and being allowed to ride the horses.

And he was a natural.

Rodeos are not that popular in the capital of Rio de Janeiro, but life is different 90 miles away in Tres Rios. Oliveira, at the time a 16-year-old teenager, saw an opportunity to start riding bulls, and wanted to make a living off of that.

"I love the adrenaline. It’s awesome,” Oliveira said. "I like that emotion when you know the horse will jump and kick, you know it’s about to happen, and you wait for that moment. I love that. It’s like when I’m fighting. I love the adrenaline. But the adrenaline of riding bulls is bigger. That’s why I’m relaxed before fights. It’s cool."

So Oliveira became a bull rider and started collecting trophies in local rodeos. He was making money, too. It wasn’t much — actually, less than 30 dollars per rodeo he won — but for a man who once worked for just one dollar a week, "that was a lot of money."

"Making (two dollars) for 15 days of work is pretty much nothing. I’d buy a soda and a cookie and it was gone,” he recalls. "But I always wanted to take the money to my mom. I’d give her the money and try to find more work to do to make more money. But sometimes I would walk into a bar and just buy a soda and a cookie because I wanted it more [laughs].”

Oliveira wasn’t into rodeos for the money, really. He just wanted to succeed as a bull rider. But dealing with animals literally 15 times heavier than you can come with a price, and Oliveira learned this lesson the worst way possible.

"I mounted a bull once, and even won the rodeo that night, but that didn’t feel good,” says Oliveira, recalling the time when a bull fractured his ribs. "I fell and the bull hit me in the ribs and fractured it. I couldn’t breath or ride horses for a while. I was head-butted by a bull once as well and passed out. But I never wanted to leave the rodeos."

Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

Oliveira was starting to find a success in the local circuit, but Simonete hated it. His mother thought it was too dangerous of a sport for a kid to be involved with, but she just wasn’t quick enough to prevent him from mounting those beasts.

"Whenever I went to a rodeo, she’d run after me,” Oliveira says. "I sneaked out of home, but she would always find me. She was desperate because those are big animals. I was there, inside the cage, mounting on a bull, when I saw her yelling ‘get out of there, boy! You can’t ride a bull, you're a minor!’

"I was 16, a skinny kid who actually looked like a 12-year-old with a big head, but they let me ride because I was good at it, and I was always helping them with everything they needed. I was competing with 20-year-olds and winning. When they announced that Alex would be riding bulls that night, people were excited because they knew I’d put on a show."

Oliveira’s boss in the farm owned a rodeo company called Sela de Ouro (Golden Saddle, in Portuguese), so he started representing them in rodeos in Tres Rios and other cities nearby. Then, after his boss passed away and Sela de Ouro closed, Oliveira moved to Barretos — the go-to place in Brazil if you wanted to become a popular bull rider.

Street fights and drugs

Oliveira had no money or sponsors, so he couldn’t compete in a place like Barretos. With no money to buy his own bull, Oliveira stayed there for a year, but the only job he could find was as a janitor. Forced to return to Tres Rios, the mix of disappointment and sadness led him down a dark road.

Oliveira admits he started using drugs — mostly marijuana — when he was 13, but he became heavy into cocaine use after his return to Tres Rios.

"Every [money] I made, I’d buy cocaine and use it,” he says.

The man that once dreamed about becoming a bull rider was lost in life, but doing stupid things led to his salvation.

"I got four women pregnant when I was 19, and I asked God to put something good in my life,” Oliveira says. "An empty mind is a devil’s workshop. I saw that that life wasn’t for me. I told myself, there’s no one important in my family, but I want to be an important man. No matter what, I will be an important man. I will give my all in everything I do now. Everything.

"I used a lot of cocaine, but I had willpower to stop. I was too crazy. I used marijuana, cocaine. It was hard to quit, but I was strong. … My kids were coming soon, and I didn’t want to be this heartbreak for them, a drug addict who was not going to be there for them, so I decided to leave that in the past and stop using it."

Among the stupid things Oliveira did was get into street fights. He’s a popular UFC fighter now in Tres Rios, but back then he was just known as a criminal, a street fighter.

"I had too much energy, I don’t know,” Oliveira says when asked why he found himself in so many fights. "I would go to parties and get into fights. No mercy. That’s when people started to know me in the city ... and they feared me."

At one of those parties, Oliveira’s life forever changed. Partying with his wife, siblings and four friends, all hell broke loose.

"We were there, having fun, drinking a few beers, when some guys came out of nowhere and said they were going to beat us up outside the party,” Oliveira recalls. "I told them we were just having fun there, and then he asked me if I was Alex, that they wanted to beat me up. I told him ‘if you touch my wife or sister, I’ll kill you.’ I had no knife or anything like that with me, I was just trying to scare him off.”

That didn’t work.

When those men walked away, Oliveira looked outside the party. About 40 people were waiting for them out there, he says, and entering a street fight outnumbered wasn’t a smart idea. So Oliveira decided to leave through the back door, but his brother had a different plan.

"I was like ‘holy shit, let’s get out of there before they break us,’ but my brother was too drunk and decided to leave through the front door, right in front of them,” he says. "We got there and they started to throw rocks at us. My brother was right behind me, and a rock hit him in the head.

"That’s when I really knew what was pure rage and anger, seeing my brother laying on the ground, bleeding… I thought they killed my brother. I started beating everyone up. I fought for 15 minutes, and I spent 15 minutes beating people up. I beat everyone up. Everyone I hit was knocked out on the ground.”

When it was finally over, Oliveira looked across the street and saw a man standing under a tree. Alexandre Bento, a longtime friend, was watching everything right next to his wife. Oliveira asked him why he didn’t offer help, but Bento wouldn’t leave his wife to enter a street fight like that.

“He said I was doing fine and didn’t seem to need help,” Oliveira says. "He said ‘there were a lot of people there, but you took care of everything.’”

Oliveira didn’t know, but Bento would help him days later. Impressed with that man’s talent for fights — even if it was a street fight — Bento invited Oliveira to visit the MMA gym he trained at, ATS. He told Oliveira that he had potential, but the troubled man wanted nothing with it. “I won’t fight in a ring,” Oliveira responded.

He got a job days later, building a dam a few miles away from Tres Rios. When he took the bus to the construction site, a familiar face was right next to him.

"Alexandre Bento was on the same bus, and he kept calling me to go to that gym,” Oliveira says.

Bento wouldn’t stop, so Oliveira eventually decided to go. He wasn’t interested in training — he just wanted to shut that man up. When Oliveira entered the gym and watched its owner Andre Tadeu spar in the boxing ring, he said to himself he was right about staying away from that place.

"No way I’m doing this,” Oliveira told Bento. "I’ll get killed in there. That’s not for me. He said ‘relax, kid, you’ll get used to it.’”

Once Tadeu’s sparring session was over, he came over to Oliveira and introduced himself. They shook hands, and Oliveira was impressed with the man’s strength.

"Andre asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I’d only train if I could fight right away,” Oliveira says. "I was just being cocky, I didn’t want to fight. But he said ‘ok, that’s exactly what I was looking for.’”

"I saw right away that he was different,” remembers Tadeu. "It’s not easy for someone to enter a gym and say something like that. Not many people do that. He started training, and I saw that he had heart. At first he didn’t care about the techniques, he just wanted to brawl. If you touch him, he becomes a beast."

"My first weeks in the gym… my God! I thought I knew how to fight because I beat people up in the streets, but I realized I knew sh*t,” Oliveira says, laughing. "I was getting beat up in the gym. I started to train for real, I wanted to learn everything.”

ATS is the biggest martial arts gym in Tres Rios, but the other members of the team weren’t happy about Oliveira joining.

"I didn’t know he was famous for fighting in the streets because I never went out during the weekends. But when he left the gym the first day, everyone started telling me what he did in the streets,” Tadeu says. "When he came back the next day, I told him that his life could change, and he understood that. No one believed in him, but I saw potential.

Oliveira wanted to change, especially after his brother was shot and killed — the same brother who was hit in the head with a rock at that fateful party. It’s unclear why he was murdered, but Oliveira says it has something to do with their street fights, and Oliveira knew he had to escape that world.

"Even cops would tell me ‘this guy is worth nothing, forget him,’” Tadeu says. "When I really knew Cowboy as a person, I knew he was a good, humble man. He told me about his brother and how he died, about his mother and his family. I saw the other side of the story, the human being."

Tadeu believed in Oliveira, and Oliveira — who was now known as “Cowboy" — started to believe in himself.

"That’s when I stopped fighting in the streets. He showed me I could become one of the best in the world,” Oliveira says. "My kids watch me fight today and get emotional, they are proud to tell their friends at school that Alex 'Cowboy' is their father. In the past, it would be like ‘my dad is in jail, my dad is dead.’ They are everything to me. They are happy, so I am happy.

"I had to change my life because that definitely wouldn’t help my kids. I started to work and do what I do best. I was more focused. When I became a father, I started to see what’s really important in life. If I do something bad in life, that would reflect on my kids."

PRIDE rules… in Muay Thai

Three months after joining the team, Oliveira was ready for his first professional fight. Or rather, Tadeu said he was ready, but “Cowboy" didn’t think the same. He eventually agreed to a Muay Thai bout, though, and it was bananas.

"When I got there, oh sh*t, that’s a big dude,” Oliveira recalls. "I thought he’d kill me, but Andre said ‘relax, son, you will beat him up.’"

Instead of asking about the ruleset or actually learning about the sport before fighting as a professional, "Cowboy" said he already knew everything he needed about Muay Thai. He didn’t knew a thing.

It was three three-minute rounds, and Oliveira turned the fight into a nine-minute, non-stop brawl. "I was like a machine, beating him up,” he says.

It sounds like a perfect debut, but “Cowboy" almost ruined it in the second round. A PRIDE fan, Oliveira assumed he was competing under those rules.

Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

"I continued to beat him up in the second round when he went down and I stomped him in the head,” Oliveira says with a laugh. "Everyone went nuts and started screaming. I didn’t know the rules. I apologized. It was his first fight as well, so he wanted to continue fighting. I guess he was mad at me and wanted to make me pay for it."

The referee restarted the action and Oliveira went on to beat his opponent up. In the end, he won the decision despite point deductions. He was 1-0 as a professional Muay Thai fighter, but had enough of it.

Even though “Cowboy" knew nothing about other forms of martial art, he didn’t want to compete in a "limited" ruleset like Muay Thai.

"I wanted to do my best and make money in MMA,” Oliveira says. "I had no idea how to fight on the ground, so I decided to train with black belts, brown belts. I knew they were tougher, so I told myself ‘if you can hang with them on the ground, you’re getting better.’ They would twist my arms left and right, choke me. But I was learning.

"Mounting an opponent is way easier than mounting a bull because a bull is a beast. If you make a mistake it can stomp at you, break your ribs, arms, everything. You can’t play with a bull. With a man, it’s all good. He's at your weight class. Sometimes a bit bigger, a bit stronger, but no big deal. Just do what you did in practice.”

Oliveira was excited about mixed martial arts, and so was his mother.

"Thank God he’s into fighting now instead of those rodeos,” Simonete says with a laugh. "Thank God. (MMA) is way better than rodeos. I got nervous and didn’t like it, but when I got there he was (always) already riding the bull so there was nothing I could do about it. I’ve seen many accidents in rodeos. I was just too nervous about it."

A few months later, Tadeu called his protege and announced that Oliveira was ready to make his MMA debut. “Cowboy" again disagreed, but considering that Tadeu was right the first time, he decided to go for it.

After a 150-mile ride from Tres Rios to Ervalia, Minas Gerais, “Cowboy" scored a first-round knockout in Dec. 10, 2011. Oliveira was back in the ring three months later, but this time he lost by submission in just 63 seconds. The ex-bull rider then fought three times in the next five months, scoring three first-round finishes.

“Cowboy" was getting popular in the local circuit. With a 4-1 record, he was offered a fight with 19-7 veteran Wendell Oliveira at WOCS 25, and he refused to say "no" to such a big opportunity.

"He was close to signing with the UFC, and they threw me in there to lose,” “Cowboy" says. "Who the hell is Alex 'Cowboy' and what has he done? I was a nobody, and Wendell didn’t know me.”

Wendell Oliveira went back home with a unanimous decision victory and ended up signing with the UFC the next year, but “Cowboy" thought he had done enough to win.

"I went in there and gave him three rounds of pain,” he says. "If you watch that fight you’ll see me winning, but the judges gave him the win."

Feeling that he got robbed and was not getting paid enough to fight was too much for “Cowboy,” who considered quitting.

"I didn’t make much money, and spent twice (as much) with the diet,” he says. "Andre Tadeu told me ‘son, this is just the beginning. You’re not making much money now, but you’ll make what you want soon.’”

"Cowboy" decided to continue fighting, but his wife — the mother of one of his four kids, Tyson — wasn’t happy with the situation. She accused his coach of stealing from his fight purses, but Oliveira believed in Tadeu.

Back to the WOCS cage, “Cowboy" picked up another first-round win, and brought the money, 1,500 reais (around 500 dollars), back home for his wife.

"I never saw so much money before,” he says. "I came back home, threw the money over the bed and said ‘that's how much I made today. My master never stole money from me. He never did that. And I’ll still make way more money. I hope you’re with me, or we’re done.’"

The problem is, Oliveira’s wife was battling her own demons.

Oliveira's next fight was in Rio de Janeiro against Fabio Lima. During his training camp at Rio de Janeiro’s TFT, a team that partnered with ATS, "Cowboy" was informed that something had happened to her.

"I don’t know why, but she started messing with drugs,” Oliveira says. "She was arrested, and I was depressed. I couldn’t go back to Tres Rios and pull a miracle and get her out of jail, so she stayed there. She wanted that."

Oliveira won the fight and returned home, but his personal life was already damaged.

"There was no need for her to do that and expose our family like that,” Oliveira told his ex-mother in law. "She stayed in jail for four months, and I kept paying my sister to take care of my son while I trained during the day. When she was released from jail, the first thing she did was cheat on me. She cheated on me, said she didn’t want me anymore.”

Oliveira left the gym and went straight to the bar. The only thing he did was drink, nonstop, for two weeks.

“My mom came to me and said ‘my son, you know you can do way more than that. You know that,’" Oliveira says. And she was right.

A reason to smile

A few months later, the UFC announced the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, and Oliveira decided to test his luck. Accustomed to competing at welterweight, “Cowboy" attempted to enter the reality show as a lightweight, but was denied an opportunity.

"Bruno Korea and I went through, and I spent the holidays training hard, cutting weight,” he says. "I was in great shape, at 161 pounds, but they never called me. They said I never fought at 155 pounds before, so that was it.”

Another disappointment hit him, but Simonete’s words of wisdom gave him strength to go on. Booked to meet TUF Brazil 3 alum Joilton Santos at Face to Face 10, “Cowboy" once again saw himself perhaps a win away from signing with the UFC.

"They told me whoever wins would sign with the UFC,” he says, "so I beat him up for three rounds.”

Once he was back in Tres Rios, he got the great news. Five days after the win, “Cowboy" signed with the UFC to replace an injured Josh Thomson against Gilbert Burns at UFC Fight Night 62 in March 2015.

Oliveira was helping his cousin build a wall in his house when he got the call from his coach about the news. He didn’t celebrate. “I already knew it would come,” he says. Minutes later, TFT leader Otavio Duarte also called him. "Relax, I’m helping my cousin build a wall in his house,” Oliveira said, “then I’m going to Rio to start training."

Burns, a multiple-time jiu-jitsu champion and then unbeaten as a MMA fighter, was a huge favorite against a newcomer on short notice, but Oliveira believed in his hands.

"Relax. I’ll go there and trade with him,” he told his coaches back then. "I know he’s good on the ground, so I’ll trade punches with him and do my best."

And that’s what he did for two and a half rounds, before “Durinho" finally secured a takedown and submitted Oliveira with 46 seconds left.

"When we announced that Cowboy had signed with the UFC, no one thought he could win, not even here in Tres Rios,” Tadeu says. "They thought he’d get submitted quickly, and he beat him up in the fight. He lost in the end, but I believe that was God saying it was not the right time for him to win.

"I couldn’t stay in his corner, I just kept crying and thanking God in the locker room. To turn someone ignored by society, who people wanted to see dead, into this? I couldn’t believe it. I was so happy."

The win didn’t come, but stepping inside the Octagon for the first time changed Oliveira’s life — and his family’s lives — forever.

Once seen as a troubled kid in Tres Rios, “Cowboy" returned to his hometown as a superstar despite the defeat.

"My friends couldn’t hang with me in the streets because their parents wouldn’t let them, and now I’m a reference in the city,” Oliveira says. "I’m happy to see kids coming up to me saying they want to be like me in the future.”

Oliveira, a kid who once couldn’t believe he was paid 1,500 reais for a fight, returned home with thousands of dollars in his pocket.

"When I got all that money in the UFC, man… I was not used to so many zeros,” he laughs. "I was thrilled. That’s when I found out what is money. I’m in the UFC, I’m making real money now."

That money would be enough for him to buy a car, a small house, or even the horse he once dreamed about, but he had other plans. The kid that was used to giving his mother trouble for years, wanted to make her smile again… literally.

Oliveira's mom smiled again
Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

“I got all that money and gave my mom new teeth so she could smile,” Oliveira says. "It was awesome, man. To see her smile again, that’s amazing. She was too shy to smile in the first days, but I said ‘mom, feel free to smile, now you have those beautiful porcelain teeth. I had a blast seeing her that happy."

"I didn’t like to smile that much,” Simonete says, showing off her new teeth, "and he said 'I’ll give you some teeth so you can smile,’ and he did that."

“Cowboy" returned to the Octagon two months later, submitting K.J. Noons in the opening round at Goiania’s UFC Fight Night 67. Less than a month later, he defeated Joey Merrit via decision at UFC Fight Night 70. Later that year, in his fifth fight in 2015, Oliveira starched Piotr Hallman to earn his first “Performance of the Night” bonus.

The kid that wanted to become a bull rider and almost quit MMA due to poor pay was 3-1 in the UFC, his pockets full of dollars. He could finally buy himself a horse, but only after he bought his mother a brand new house.

"He told me he’d buy me a house as soon as he started making some money, and he did it,” Simonete says. "I’m so happy. I lived in a small house. My daughter bought me a bigger one, and now he bought me an even bigger one.”

These days, having logged 10 UFC fights total, Oliveira has bought five houses in Tres Rios, 15 oxen and a pair of horses, but he still won’t let money change who he really is.

"The UFC is forever, but I’m not,” Oliveira says. "I will get older, turn 30, so I have to invest money so that comes back in the future. This is my job. The more I work, the more money I’ll make. I have to stay grounded, don’t let that get into my head. You never know how the future is gonna be. I have to be who I am, not who people want me to be.

"I’ll continue beating people up and buying more houses [laughs]. And I’ll continue being Alex Cowboy for the UFC and for the whole world. But, for my family, I’ll always be Alex, Simonete’s and Marco Antonio’s son.”

No more lightweight, no more ATT

Unbeaten since taking a short notice bout with Donald Cerrone — the other “Cowboy" in the UFC — Oliveira is staying at welterweight for good now. Going up and down from 155 to 170 pounds took a toll on his body, he says, and what happened during UFC Fight Night 96 fight week in Portland contributed to his decision.

Oliveira’s team TFT has a partnership with American Top Team, and talents like “Cowboy" and Thiago Santos were used to finishing their camps in Florida before fights in the United States. Booked to meet fellow ATT fighter Will Brooks in a lightweight bout at UFN 96, Oliveira missed weight for the first time in his career, and that led to a complicated relationship with Brooks.

"I felt bad about it,” Oliveira says of missing weight. “(Brooks) agreed to fight me, and he wouldn’t shake hands backstage. He was ignoring me there, cursing at my team, saying bad words about my manager and even my mother. When that happens, it’s not only a fight, it’s personal.”

“Cowboy" weighed in at 161.5 pounds for the lightweight match-up, and Brooks decided to take the fight regardless. The Brazilian became the second fighter to ever defeat the former Bellator champion, finishing him in the third round with a vicious ground and pound.

"When I knocked him out, I did something I’m not used to and that made me feel bad,” says Oliveira, who taunted his opponent with a gesture. After that roller coaster of emotions week in Portland, “Cowboy" decided to stay for good in Brazil.

UFC Fight Night 96 photos
Oliveira taunts Brooks after the finish
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

"I was offered to stay in the United States and train full time at ATT, but I want to become champion training in my city, with my people, with my family around me,” he says. "When I go to ATT, sooner or later they will put me to fight someone from the team, like Brooks, so I’d better stay here and don’t make many friends. It’s better for me to stay here. I train here, work hard, and go there to put on my show."

"If I meet (Brooks again), we’re going to fight wherever we are,” he adds. "The ATT guys are great, but there are many students that change as soon as they enter the UFC. They don’t respect the coaches anymore. To me, that’s not good. In my opinion, those guys have to get beat up.

"I thank the ATT coaches, the ones that helped me, but it doesn’t work for me anymore. I can visit them, ‘Marreta' and (Luis Henrique) ‘KLB' train there, but it’s not for me. I want to stay in Tres Rios, get my job done and come back."

It’s unlikely that Oliveira ever meets Brooks inside the Octagon now that he has decided to permanently move up to welterweight after missing weight for the first time, and he’s happy with that move.

"I’m feeling comfortable fighting at 170,” says Oliveira, who stopped Tim Means via second-round submission at UFC Fight Night 106, a rematch of their controversial no-contest at UFC 207.

"I want to fight the top-10 guys now because my goal is to win the belt. I’ll climb the ladder in order to get there, just like I did before signing with the UFC. Step by step, no shortcuts. I know there are a lot of people ahead of me, I’m the No. 14 and there are many people that deserve it more than me, but I’ll tell you this: if I surpass you, you’re not getting your spot back."

In his second fight of the year, last July, Oliveira agreed to take on New York’s Ryan LaFlare in enemy territory in Long Island. “Cowboy" was the betting underdog against a fighter who only had one loss as a professional, which came in a five-round decision against grappling wizard Demian Maia in Rio de Janeiro.

"I watched his fights, I’m a fan of his,” Oliveira says of LaFlare. "I saw how (Roan Carneiro) ‘Jucao' and (John Howard) fought him, and I knew I had to mix those styles. I had to move and wait for the right moment to attack.”

The Brazilian was smiling, dancing on his way to the Octagon. "Cowboy" was so relaxed that UFC commentator Brian Stann questioned if he was playing too much. LaFlare did what he was supposed to do in the opening round, but Oliveira already expected that.

"When he saw an opportunity to take me down in the second round, that was the moment for me to counter and knock him out,” Olivera says. "And that’s exactly what happened."

“Cowboy” flattened LaFlare with a devastating uppercut, and just walked away.

"You see me dancing, playing around. That’s what I do,” says Oliveira, who won his second post-fight bonus at UFC on FOX 25. "I’m used to fighting every day. When the fight starts, I knew when it’s time to play and when it’s time to be serious. I’ll always do my best in there.

"Anderson Silva once said that fighting is like a dance, so that’s how I see it. I’m playing, but I’m being serious. Dancing, relaxing, loose. When I’m like that, I’m fine."

Oliveira finished LaFlare with a vicious uppercut in Long Island
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The UFC gold

Oliveira’s goal was to become the best bull rider in the world, but destiny brought him to a different type of arena instead. One of the 15 best welterweights in the UFC, "Cowboy" believes he has what it takes to win the Ultimate Fighting Championship belt once given an opportunity.

"If it’s up to me, I’ll become champion tomorrow,” says Oliveira, who calls for a top-10 opponent next. "The UFC gave me a fight against a ranked opponent, so bring me more. Whoever has the belt when I have my shot will lose, because I’m hungry for it."

Tyron Woodley is that man today.

With devastating knockout power and impeccable wrestling, “The Chosen One” has defeated the likes of Robbie Lawler, Kelvin Gastelum, Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Carlos Condit under the UFC banner, but…

"I’d give him a lot of trouble,” Oliveira says. "I can guarantee you that he’s never fought someone as tough as me before. I’d take that belt away from him. No doubt. It would be a great fight, but I’d take that belt away from him.

"I believe in myself and that’s enough. He’s the champion, but give me one opportunity and he will lose. He has something that belongs to me. I know it’s not my time, I know there are a lot of people ahead of me, but I’ll slowly climb this mountain. I will get there."

Alex Oliveira believes he can dethrone welterweight champion Tyron Woodley
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

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