It turns out that Charles Oliveira still has fights left on his contract with the UFC.
Hours after tapping Kevin Lee in the main event of UFC Brasilia in March, “do Bronx” told reporters in a scrum that the main event attraction was the last bout in his deal with the company. Weeks after that, Oliveira told MMA Fighting he still had yet to sign a new deal.
Three months later, however, Oliveira’s coach and manager Diego Lima revealed to MMA Fighting that the lightweight talent actually has two bouts remaining on his contract. They were looking to secure a good deal after such an impressive performance in a main event, but changed plans afterward due to the break in events caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We always re-sign before the last (fight), no exception,” Lima said. “This last contract was a five-fight deal, so Kevin Lee was the third (fight). In theory he still has two left, so, because of the pandemic and everything else, we preferred to do the fourth (fight) before renewing.”
Oliveira is not an option for U.S.-based events for now since he lives and trains in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The UFC has four cards scheduled for Yas Island in Abu Dhabi between July 11 and 25, and Lima wants a headlining spot for his protege.
The UFC hasn’t officially announced that Robert Whittaker vs. Darren Till will serve as the main event for the last event in the “Fight Island” series, and Lima hopes Oliveira can jump on that opportunity with the right matchup.
“The right fight matters, but the main event definitely (is more important) because our strategy is to go for the belt, so we have to be smart now,” Lima said. “He’s coming off seven wins, and we were very smart in taking those seven fights. We took opponents that had a name, and then we fought Kevin Lee on the right time, when we were the main event.
“What’s the point of fighting Kevin Lee in the main card opener? It wouldn’t have the same glamour that this fight deserves. With a win over Kevin Lee in a main event now, there’s no other option but to give him another main event, another good fight. And that’s how we go to the belt.”
Oliveira has been training for three weeks now at Chute Boxe, staying ready whenever matchmaker Sean Shelby makes a call. Unluckily for him though, there aren’t many options available at the top of the lightweight division.
Oliveira currently sits at No. 7 in the 155-pound weight class with Tony Ferguson, Conor McGregor and Paul Felder being the only names ranked ahead of him that aren’t currently booked to compete.
“McGregor announced his retirement, so he’s definitely not coming back for the July 25 card because he would need all that marketing around him and six weeks would not be enough time,” Lima said. “Ferguson, because of his injury, I don’t believe he comes back before August or September. So Felder is the only one left. We asked for Felder, but, based on what I’ve seen, Felder doesn’t want it.”
Felder isn’t retired from the sport, but has previously said of his next fight that “it’s got to be something exciting” for him to enter the octagon again.
“It will end up being someone ranked below Charles,” Lima said. “I’m OK with that if we can do a big fight, a main event, against Islam Makhachev, or someone tough that isn’t ranked, because Charles is ranked and would get one step closer to the belt.
“If Charles wins his second main event, eight wins in a row with no decisions, there’s nothing else left for Charles. What are they going to do? After this fight, it can’t be anything but a main event. And if he wins three main events in a row, he has no other option but fight for the belt.”
Of all the names currently ranked between Oliveira and No. 15, Makhachev is the one that Lima sees as the best option for a 25-minute clash. Makhachev is 18-1 in the sport with six straight wins in the UFC. Lima also doesn’t think he would agree to fight in late-July, though, due to Ramadan.
“Honestly, whoever they send, we will have to fight, of course,” Lima said. “We don’t want an unknown, nothing like that. But if it’s a tough guy, someone that isn’t ranked but has a big name, and it’s a good placement on the card, we’d go to war.”