The UFC lightweight division merry-go-round continues.
With the title picture unclear as ever with champion Khabib Nurmagomedov seemingly steadfast in his decision to retire, things remain unclear for top contenders such as Dustin Poirier, Charles Oliveira, Justin Gaethje, Conor McGregor, Tony Ferguson and Michael Chandler when it comes to the UFC championship at 155 pounds.
On Monday, Chandler told ESPN he had accepted a short-notice fight against a top-ranked opponent at UFC 258 on 13 February, but that unnamed lightweight foe rejected the offer. Chandler only made his emphatic UFC debut in January at UFC 257 when he knocked out Dan Hooker in the first round.
As it turns out, that mystery opponent was Oliveira.
The Brazilian is coming off a dominant win over former interim champion Ferguson in late 2020 and riding high on an eight-fight win streak.
According to a report from Sherdog, “Do Bronx” isn’t interested in taking another short-notice fight – he faced the aforementioned Ferguson on just 20 days’ notice – and is holding out for the title shot he believes he has already earned.
“Charles had never been so close to the belt and it’s important to note that he worked hard for that,” said Oliveira’s coach Diego Lima. “He is on an eight-fight winning streak, with seven coming via submission or KO. The fans and even Poirier recognized that. Today is 1 February – it makes no sense for us to accept a title eliminator for 11 days from now.
“Charles needs time to lose weight, we lose about two days with visa stuff and of course we need to prepare for the fight itself. Our goal was fight for the belt against Poirier, but if Poirier will not fight for the belt and the UFC wants to make the Chandler fight for the belt, no problem.”
Lima says the one major factor in the decision is preparation. After putting together that run of eight wins on the bounce, Oliveira has no interest in taking fights he can’t properly prepare for now he is finally in the title picture after 11 long years in the UFC.
“All champions have two or three months to make a camp to get ready,” coach Lima continued. “We already did crazy stuff like accept Clay Guida in 10 days and Ferguson in 20, but I think that for all Charles has done, he deserves to have a full camp to fight for that title.”
As for Chandler, it seems his new UFC peers aren’t all that willing to concede he should be fighting for the title next.
Following his comprehensive win over McGregor at UFC 257, Poirier seems to be in the driving seat for the UFC title if Nurmagomedov is retired. Poirier dismissed Chandler as his next opponent in the post-fight press conference, instead suggesting a trilogy fight with McGregor could be in the offing, while also stating that he though Oliveira had “paid his dues” to fight for the title.