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Charles Oliveira reacts to backstage encounter with Justin Gaethje, wants underdog status so ‘my fans make money’

MMA: UFC 269-Oliveira vs Poirier
Charles Oliveira
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje appears to be the next UFC lightweight title matchup after the Brazilian champion tapped Dustin Poirier at UFC 269 — and “do Bronx” wants Gaethje to decide whether he’s going to be respectful ahead of a potential showdown.

Heading into Oliveira’s recent bout with Poirier, Gaethje said he wasn’t “high on Oliveira yet” and ultimately picked Poirier to win, labeling the 32-year-old titleholder a “quitter.”

Afterward, however, Gaethje met Oliveira backstage and was caught on camera telling him “that was fucking awesome.”

“Nothing but respect,” Gaethje said to Oliveira at UFC 269. “You deserve it, man.”

Speaking on MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, Oliveira weighed in on Gaethje switching from a “trash talker” to being perfectly nice in person, only to then switch again and swear that he couldn’t wait to “break” Oliveira’s face.

“The guy is talking a bunch of crap the entire time, and when we meet face-to-face he says he has all the respect for me and what I do — and two minutes later he’s saying he’ll break my face and saying a bunch of stuff,” Oliveira told MMA Fighting.

“These guys hype things up and try to sell the fight with something they are not. If you’re a humble guy, if you’re a respectful guy, you have to sell the fight that way. If you’re a guy that talks crap, you have to sell the fight talking crap the entire time — to my face and behind my back.”

Gaethje is coming off a thrilling decision win over Michael Chandler, who Oliveira beat to capture a vacant belt in May. If the American fan favorite does get a fight with Oliveira next, it would be Gaethje’s second chance at undisputed gold after falling short against then-champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254.

Oliveira welcomes a fight with Gaethje as much as he does against former two-division champion Conor McGregor. Ultimately, he’s going to leave the decision up to the UFC.

“These 10 [consecutive] wins I got, I’m only worried about what I can bring to the game, not what my opponents can bring, and I believe it will continue that way,” Oliveira said. “I’m not worried about what Justin Gaethje — if it is against him — can bring, but [instead] what I can bring to the game. A striker, a jiu-jitsu guy, an MMA fighter, that’s what I’ll bring. Boldness and joy inside the cage. I’m happy and I have cardio. That’s what matters.”

The opening odds for a potential clash between Oliveira and Gaethje have the Brazilian as an early favorite at -205, but “do Bronx” prefers to be treated as an underdog, just as he was in previous bouts against Kevin Lee, Tony Ferguson, and Poirier.

“It’s good to be the underdog [because] many people make money, my fans make money,” Oliveira said. “Friends and fans texted me pictures of their bets. Americans betting $10,000, $20,000, $50,000 on me. My friends from Brazil betting R$20,000, R$10,000. It’s good because everybody makes money.

“When [others] don’t believe in me, a lot of people make money. I met people in the streets of Las Vegas and they were like, ‘Look, I bet on you and made money.’ I hope I continue as the underdog so everybody makes money.”

Update: Gaethje has responded to Oliveira’s comments on their backstage meeting.