On a night full of surprises, the name most likely to next challenge Charles Oliveira wasn’t one of them.
Oliveira was victorious in his first defense of the lightweight title, submitting Dustin Poirier in the UFC 269 main event to record his 10th straight win. The winner of Saturday’s fight has long been expected to face Justin Gaethje — the No. 3 lightweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings — and UFC President Dana White confirmed at the evening’s post-fight press conference that that Gaethje was probably next in line.
“Yeah, it makes sense,” White said when Gaethje’s name was brought up.
Gaethje addressed the topic himself shortly after UFC 269 concluded, simply tweeting “next” and “can’t wait.”
December 12, 2021
It’s uncommon for White and the UFC to commit to any matchups on fight night, so any official confirmation on an Oliveira-Gaethje booking is unlikely to be made for a while, but with Gaethje in attendance at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, it appears that the former interim champion is in the right place at the right time.
Whether Oliveira will have the chance to defend his title in his native Brazil, White couldn’t answer. UFC events have been limited to a few locations (namely Nevada, Texas, Florida, Arizona, New York, and Abu Dhabi) since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020.
“I have no idea what’s possible in 2022,” White said. “I don’t give a sh*t. I [couldn’t] care less. Texas, Florida, APEX. Florida, Texas, APEX. Abu Dhabi, Florida, Texas, APEX. I don’t give a sh*t if anything opens again. I don’t care, I’m not even thinking about it, I [couldn’t] care less.”
White gave a glowing assessment of the UFC 269 main event, praising both Oliveira and Poirier for their effort. He shot down the notion that Oliveira had any “quit” in him, a common criticism of the Brazilian star earlier in his career.
“I never heard any of that stuff,” White said. “You’ve got to stay off the f*cking internet. I always thought he was a tough guy. He’s had some bumps along the way, same thing with Poirier, but like I said at the press conference the other day they’re two blue-collar, hard-working guys that have grinded their way to the top and he went in tonight and beat Dustin. And Dustin is a very, very tough, durable, well-rounded guy who has had a ton of experience and it was a big night for Oliveira.”
As for Poirier, this is the second time the veteran has fallen short of becoming the UFC’s undisputed champion at 155 pounds. A former interim titleholder, Poirier’s next move is unclear and White is in no hurry to prompt him to make a decision.
“We talked after the fight, like up in the octagon for a second,” White said. “I just saw him outside when I was walking out here, but you know, there’s nothing to talk about right now. He needs to go home, relax, enjoy some time with his family, enjoy the holidays, and when he heals up and all the bullsh*t blows over we’ll figure out what’s next for him.
“There’s no rush. We don’t have to decide anything tonight.”