On Dec. 2, 2017, Charles Oliveira misplaced to Paul Felder by way of second-round TKO because the featured preliminary bout main into the UFC 218 pay-per-view major card.
It was the eighth loss — all coming within the UFC — of the Brazilian’s once-promising profession. It wasn’t any roughly exceptional than the primary seven defeats; Felder, on the time, was rising by means of the light-weight ranks himself. All of his defeats had come to extremely revered competitors, together with previous and former champions Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis.
However a humorous factor occurred after that evening in Detroit: Oliveira (31-8, 28 finishes) stopped dropping and rode the wave all the best way to the highest. And this Saturday, at T-Cellular Enviornment in Las Vegas, he’s one half of the December pay-per-view headliner, placing his light-weight championship on the road for the primary time in opposition to Dustin Poirier at UFC 269.
“4 years in the past can be when my daughter was born,” Oliveira informed The Submit by means of an interpreter by way of Zoom, 4 years to the day after the latest blemish on his document. “So my life modified fully after that. I really feel like every thing modified fully, and you may see my evolution inside and outdoors the cage after that.
“4 years in the past, I used to be a very totally different fighter than I’m right this moment.”
Oliveira had all the time been a grappling wunderkind, relationship again to his 41-second submission victory in his UFC debut 11 years in the past. He’d already gained 9 instances by way of tapout by the tip of 2017. He’s now the UFC record-holder with 14 wins by submission.
Earlier than he acquired the UFC name at age 20, nonetheless, his technique of victory had been extra various, with six coming by (T)KO. However his palms as a ending instrument went all however dormant till a Might 2019 TKO of Nik Lentz — an opponent he’d beforehand fought twice and not using a loss — hinted at what was to return. A knockout of Jared Gordon six months later ran his profitable streak to 6 and put the 155-pound division on discover that the grappler had added some fearsome putting now.
Grappling dominance over Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson — who as soon as competed in opposition to one another for the interim light-weight crown — final yr ensured Oliveira was, eventually, a risk to win the championship that will quickly be vacated by Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement.
That risk grew to become actuality in Might as Oliveira survived a hellish first body in opposition to Michael Chandler to cease his opponent by way of strikes 19 seconds into the second spherical and declare the championship at 155 kilos.
“Not even in my wildest desires [had] I assumed I’d get the belt the best way I did,” Oliveira stated. “I’m simply actually grateful for it and grateful for everybody round me; grateful for God, for making my desires come true.”
Star energy typically creates quick tracks to the championship image, so Olivera changing into the champion in his twenty eighth UFC contest is a refreshing growth for followers of MMA meritocracy.
One may fairly say the identical for upcoming challenger Poirier (28-6, 21 finishes), who earned his first UFC win a number of weeks earlier than his twenty second birthday — a late-replacement stunner over Josh Grispi, who was to be the first-ever challenger to the UFC featherweight belt earlier than champion Jose Aldo was compelled out by damage. Over the course of 25 UFC bouts, Poirier has assembled one of many most interesting energetic careers by a fighter but to win the undisputed crown. Sure, he grew to become interim champ in 2019 with a choice over Holloway, however he was submitted by Nurmagomedov of their unification bout later within the yr.
Poirier, by advantage of profitable the final two legs of his trilogy with celebrity former two-division champion Conor McGregor earlier this yr, is a star himself. And plenty of in and across the sport think about him to be the true No. 1 light-weight, belt or no belt.
Oliveira isn’t involved, dismissing the sentiment with “not even God can please everybody, so why would I?”
“I’m right here to show that I’m the champion, and the champion is Charles Oliveira,” he stated, “and I’ll present that on Saturday. I’ll present that I’m the higher man.”