UFC: Justin Gaethje vs. Charles Oliveira Planned, Per Dana White

Justin Gaethje, UFC 254 press conference
Justin Gaethje, UFC 254 Press Conference Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

UFC President Dana White says that he is looking to have former interim champion Justin Gaethje fight surging contender Charles Oliveira next.

UFC President Dana White spoke with Laura Sanko during a special question and answer session for subscribers of ESPN+ on Tuesday night and discussed several of the UFC’s upcoming plans.  Among them, White said the plan is to have former interim champion Justin Gaethje fight surging contender Charles Oliveira next.

During the interview, White said specifically “If everything goes right, it will probably be [Charles] Oliveira.”  This statement is open to interpretation, though many are theorizing that White means if Michael Chandler prevails against Dan Hooker at UFC 257 in a few weeks.  A former Bellator champion who was brought in as the backup in Abu Dhabi for the title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje, Chandler would seemingly be the UFC’s choice to fight the winner of Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier for the vacant title.  Oliveira was also in the running, and White did reiterate that the fight with Chandler was offered to the Brazilian contender who said he could not make the weight within the time frame.

The pairing of Oliveira with Gaethje would seemingly sort out the lightweight division for 2021.  With the top four of the division all scheduled, the next title fight and incumbent title challenger would both be set with expected dates in the summer and winter for all the winners assuming everyone remains healthy.  While White has said he plans to meet with the recently retired Khabib Nurmagomedov, the former champion has reiterated over the past several months that he has no plans to resume his career.

Gaethje is coming off a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October that snapped a four fight win-streak that included three first round knockouts and a stoppage of top contender Tony Ferguson to win the interim title.  Oliveira is on an eight fight win-streak and most recently defeated Ferguson as well this past December.