London, England — So just who is the lightweight champion heading into UFC 280? Ask the people, Charles Oliveira suggested on Friday.
“The voice of the people is the voice of God,” Oliveira said during a UFC 280 Press Conference in London, England. “So ask the people, who is the champion?”
The resounding cheer in response should give you the answer. Regardless of being stripped of the UFC’s 155 pound championship after missing weight at UFC 274, the people see “Do Bronx” as champ. It was the answer to another question, however, that saw Oliveira defer to his predecessor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, on Friday.
Asked by Cageside Press whether part of his motivation for fighting Islam Makhachev at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi was to lure Khabib Nurmagomedov out of retirement, the Brazilian replied by saying that “this is a question that you need to address to him. He has retired, deservedly; my focus is on fighting in October. [Then] back to Brazil, fight again in January.”
Even press conference host Michael Bisping wanted to press on that front, asking Oliveira if the fight was something he wanted.
“We need to respect people’s opinions, decisions,” replied Oliveira. “Of course I respect what he [Khabib] has done throughout the years. Of course, beating Islam — if he chooses to fight me, here I am.”
Nurmagomedov retired following a 2020 win over Justin Gaethje with a record of 29-0, but never faced the man who would replace him as champion, Charles Oliveira. A hypothetical fight between the two has captivated fans — but first, the Brazilian now-former champion will have to get past Makhachev. A teammate and student of Khabib, Islam has won 10 straight fights, with victories over Drew Dober, Dan Hooker, and Bobby Green in that stretch.
Oliveira (33-8, 1NC), the UFC’s submissions leader, has won 11 straight fights of his own, defeating Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler, and Kevin Lee among others.
UFC 280 takes place on October 22, 2022 on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, with the vacant lightweight championship up for grabs between Oliveira and Makhachev.