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Alex Oliveira believes hotel encounter affected Shavkat Rakhmonov’s confidence ahead of UFC 254

Alex Oliveira fought twice already this year, defeating Max Griffin and Peter Sobotta
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Alex Oliveira stepped in as a short-notice replacement to take on Shavkat Rakhmonov at Saturday’s UFC 254 on Fight Island and believes he has ruined his opponent’s confidence with one handshake.

“Cowboy” says he met Rakhmonov earlier this week at the W Hotel in Abu Dhabi, three days before the official weigh-ins, and did not appreciate the look the unbeaten Kazakh welterweight was giving him.

“This guy Rakhmonov is coming off several victories and he was confident until he saw me (Tuesday) at the breakfast, when our paths crossed,” Oliveira said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “He realized he’s got some trouble ahead of him now.”

“It was a bit tense,” he said of the encounter. “He was looking at me, looking at me, so I stood up and went there to shake his hand. We shook hands and he saw my hand is a mechanical shovel [laughs]. My hands are like mechanical shovels, way bigger than his. He’s taller than me, but my hands are way bigger than his. And I’ve seen in his eyes that he’s got cold feet.

“We can tell when the opponent feels the pressure or not. I noticed right away that he felt it, ‘Cowboy is here, he took the fight on three week’s notice and he’s lean, he’s on weight, he’s tough as hell, and still came here to shake my hand.’ I showed him it’s all business, just work, and friendship continues — but if he doesn’t wanna be friends, I’ll still kick his ass the same way.”

Oliveira doesn’t consider his attitude a form of “intimidation,” but a chance to size his opponent before battle.

“He didn’t expect that,” Oliveira said. “He thought he was fighting someone way shorter, but I’m almost his height, and I’m tough as hell for the division. He’ll realize the trouble he’s got himself into when we enter the octagon. He’ll get hurt when I land my hand on his little face, no doubt. He’s never fought someone as tough as me.”

Rakhmonov won all 12 professional bouts he’s competed in before signing with the UFC, but Oliveira guarantees he has “studied his mistakes, his flaws, and I’m way faster than him.” The Brazilian welterweight, who beat the likes of Carlos Condit, Tim Means and Will Brooks during his UFC run, aims to go 3-0 in 2020 after victories over Max Griffin and Peter Sobotta.

“He has a lot of holes in his game and I’ll explore it,” Oliveira said. “We can go to the ground if he wants to, or we can keep it on the feet. We’re both strikers and we’ll trade in there. I’ll knock him out in the first round, and then I want a top-15. That’s it.”