The UFC lightweight division belongs to Charles Oliveira now. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t think about what could have been at 145 pounds.
Or what still could be.
For years, Oliveira insisted on making the cut down to featherweight, even as the battle with the scale challenged him as much as anyone that stepped into the cage with him. Oliveira missed the featherweight limit four times and a move to lightweight was preceded by an egregious miss of almost 10 pounds for a bout against Ricardo Lamas in November 2016.
Oliveira has won 10 of 11 fights since moving up a division and on Saturday at UFC 262, his lightweight journey culminated in him winning a vacant UFC title after finishing Michael Chandler with strikes in the second round. Even with a championship belt fresh around his waist, “do Bronx” told reporters at the evening’s post-fight press conference that he still sees a return to featherweight as a possibility.
“I still feel like a featherweight,” Oliveira said via Portuese translation when asked if he’s closing the door on featherweight for good. “If Dana White gave me the opportunity to go back to the featherweight division and win, I’d take it.”
Oliveira’s time at featherweight wasn’t without highlights; in fact, he showed enormous promise in his first two UFC outings with submission wins over Efrain Escudero and Darren Elkins. It wasn’t until September 2012 that Oliveira developed both a reputation for missing weight and for being unable to win the big one. Against top-tier competition like Lamas, Anthony Pettis, Max Holloway, Frankie Edgar, and Cub Swanson, Oliveira went 0-5.
On Saturday, he made his 28th UFC appearance, which is the most appearances for a fighter getting their first-ever shot at a UFC title in promotional history. For Oliveira, it couldn’t have worked out better.
“I feel ready,” Oliveira said. “Like I said, it’s always in the time of God, but now I feel like a lion, I feel like I’m ready.”
Oliveira was 9-7 when he moved from featherweight to lightweight, a modest record that made it seem like Oliveira was more of a talented gatekeeper than a future world champion. Had he made the move to 155 pounds sooner or if he’d managed to win one or two of those marquee matchups at 145 pounds, his career trajectory would have been drastically different.
But other than his tease of dropping back down in weight, Oliveira is firmly focused on the future now.
“That’s the past,” Oliveira said. “I’m not even living that, I’m living in the present, I’m living this moment now.”