It feels as though Charles Oliveira has been around forever in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
He debuted with the Las Vegas-based organization in 2010 and experienced an up-and-down tenure as a featherweight in which he flashed dynamic finishing ability but did not appear to be a serious contender. The narrative began to shift following his transition to 155 pounds in 2017, and that culminated in a title-clinching victory over Michael Chandler in the UFC 262 headliner at the Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday night.
It only took 28 Octagon appearances, a nine-bout winning streak and one of the sport’s best ever to vacate the lightweight throne for Oliveira to finally reach the summit.
“When I got into the UFC, a lot of people said I was crazy and I said I wanted to be the best in the world and I wanted to break records,” Oliveira said. “Now I’m the biggest finisher, I’m the second in post-fight bonuses, I’m making history today becoming the lightweight champion.
“I’m the second Brazilian, I think, to get this belt. I’m making history right now. Before I left home, my daughter asked me to bring back the belt. I promised this to her and to a lot of people and I’m keeping it. I want to thank everybody who believed in me. Now I get to go back home and keep training.”
In hindsight, Oliveira is appreciative of the long journey that got him to this point. That included a few moments of adversity against Chandler. “Do Bronx” appeared to be rocked twice in the opening round, and he also endured a tight guillotine from his opponent in the bout’s first five minutes. After Oliveira survived his opponent’s initial onslaught, he floored Chandler with a left hook at the beginning of Round 2 and swarmed for the finish that arrived 19 seconds into the period.
“It had to be hard. It couldn’t be easy,” Oliveira said. “I talked a lot about the fight with Tony Ferguson. I asked for the opportunity to face a Top 5 [opponent] and I got it on five days’ notice. You saw what I did to him and he’s a monster, he deserves all the respect in the world. We talked this week and I have so much respect for him.
“Now Michael Chandler, another tough guy, so it had to be hard, it couldn’t be easy,” he continued. “He got me in that guillotine, it was well adjusted and I just said, ‘I’m going to pass out, but I’m not going to tap”. And he let go. I got his back, I wanted to hold for a little bit, he has a tough pace, he punished me a lot, but even so, I was still standing. When I sat down in between rounds, my coaches told me to breathe, keep going and be calm. I came back, I knew my hand was also heavy. When it hit him, he would feel it too.”
At long last, Oliveira can finally call himself a UFC champion. Through a career full of ups and downs, his sense of self-belief has always remained strong.
“I never doubted my day would come,” he said. “I thought it was already my time in the past, but it’s not in our time, it’s in God’s time. When I learned that, God showed me. I never thought about giving up, I always believed in it. I got into the UFC to be the champion and my time would eventually come. It’s here now.”
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