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Dana White confirms Charles Oliveira vs. Michael Chandler short-notice fight offer, defends Oliveira’s decision to decline

UFC 256: Ferguson v Oliveira
Charles Oliveira
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Charles Oliveira may have passed up on a big fight opportunity recently, but UFC President Dana White isn’t holding it against him.

Last week, a report surfaced in which Oliveira’s coach Diego Lima said that Oliveira had declined a short-notice fight with Michael Chandler at UFC 258, which takes place this Saturday.

According to Lima, Oliveira is aware that his eight-fight win streak and a recent win over Tony Ferguson put him near the top of the lightweight contenders’ rankings, and “it makes no sense for us to accept a title eliminator” under the circumstances offered.

In an interview with Complex, White confirmed that there had been talks with both Oliveira’s and Chandler’s teams about setting up a fight and that despite Oliveira declining, he was by no means ducking Chandler.

“Was there an offer for Chandler to fight Oliveira?” White said. “Yeah, but to be fair to Oliveira, it was soon. We were just checking to see if those guys wanted a quick turnaround. Oliveira said I want a full camp and there’s nothing wrong with that.

“I don’t want to make it sound like, ‘Oliveira turned down Michael Chandler,’ because that’s not true. What Oliveira turned down was a short-notice fight. If we could make it and pull it off, wanted to do it. If he wants a full camp, absolutely fair.”

The lightweight title picture has no shortage of contenders, with Oliveira on an unbeaten stretch dating back to December 2017, and Chandler picking up a spectacular first-round KO of Dan Hooker at UFC 257. Chandler was coming off of a 10-year run with Bellator that saw him capture that promotion’s lightweight belt three times.

Also waiting in the wings are No. 1 contender Dustin Poirier and recent title challenger Justin Gaethje. Conor McGregor, who Poirier defeated at UFC 257, is also never far from contention given his massive box office appeal.

Determining who is next could be a moot discussion given that UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has still not vacated nor been stripped of his title despite retiring in October after submitting Gaethje at UFC 254. Nurmagomedov has insisted he does not plan to walk back his retirement announcement, while White hasn’t given up on booking Nurmagomedov for at least one more fight.

As for Oliveira, White and the matchmakers are figuring out what’s next for him.

“We’re working on it right now,” White said. “We’re working on it.”

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