Charles Oliveira’s first-round finish of Beneil Dariush at UFC 289 delivered a statement of intent to reigning champ Islam Makhachev, and the Russian’s coach admitted he was impressed with what he saw.
Speaking to Submission Radio to react to Oliveira’s win and subsequent callout of Makhachev, American Kickboxing Academy head coach Javier Mendez said the Brazilian’s performance surpassed his expectations for the fight, and put him firmly in the frame to face Makhachev again.
“I was predicting Beneil,” Mendez admitted.
“I’ve been talking Beneil, Beneil. Beneil deserves it. Beneil, Beneil. I’ve been talking that way for a long time and wondering why Beneil hasn’t got the opportunity.
“Well, one of the reasons why he hasn’t got the opportunity is Charles Oliveira looked so freaking good. That’s one of the reasons why Beneil’s not getting the opportunity, cause Charles was un-freakin-believable.”
Mendez went on to explain that he was not just expecting, but hoping, that Dariush would emerge victorious. But Oliveira took his performance to a higher level in order to overcome a tricky start and eventually finish Dariush with strikes in the opening round in Vancouver.
“I didn’t know who was gonna win, but I was crossing my fingers it was gonna be Beneil,” Mendez admitted.
“I for sure didn’t think Charles was gonna be that impressive in victory. I did not think that. He totally, totally unexpectedly shocked anything to what I thought he was capable of doing. I didn’t think that he was gonna be able to do it like he did. I thought a great performance was gonna put him in the talks, but I bypassed that. And maybe it was because I wanted Beneil to win. I don’t know. But I should not have underestimated how great he is as a champion.
“I didn’t expect him to look so damn good. And so confident. He won the crowd over, man. He won me over also. So, so impressed. He’s a champion for a reason. I wasn’t bummed, I was just wrong in who I thought was gonna win. But, I wasn’t bummed.”
The stage now seems set for a lightweight title rematch between Makhachev and Oliveira, with the pair set to meet again in a re-run of the bout that saw the Russian dethrone the Brazilian to capture the 155-pound title at UFC 280 in October 2022.
It’s a matchup the UFC is likely to push hard for, and Mendez said that he expects his man to agree to any name the UFC presents to him.
“I seriously doubt Islam’s gonna refuse whoever they offer,” he said.
“So, whoever they offer, they’re gonna offer. But, who’s gonna be the challenger? Honestly, I know I did want Beneil because I felt he was being disrespected.”
Oliveira now appears to be at the top of the lightweight contender list, and Mendez said he has done everything he needed to do to occupy that spot.
“Charles has earned that right to be number one in line for it,” he said.
“What the UFC feels is different. But from what I see, I don’t see how… I mean, you tell me, guys. You tell me what you think. Do you think Charles earned and did enough to be the next lightweight contender? I think so. But, it’s what the fans think, it’s what the UFC thinks.
“Do I think he’s done enough? Yeah, I think he has.”