Charles Oliveira may not officially be the UFC lightweight champion but try telling him that. The Brazilian will fight Islam Makhachev for the vacant belt at UFC 280 this weekend and still sees the title as his property.

Oliveira is on a remarkable 11 fight winning streak with 11 finishes and only lost the belt on a technicality. He came in slightly overweight ahead of his emphatic victory against Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 with the suggestion being that the scales were not calibrated properly.

On paper, Makhachev could be the Brazilian’s toughest test yet. As a protege of Khabib Nurmagomedov, the Russian has long-been touted as the heir to the ‘The Eagle’s’ famed lightweight legacy of dominance.


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True champion

The student has certainly resembled the master in recent years having amassed a ten fight winning streak punctuated by submissions and vicious ground and pound. His performances have even lead the bookies to mark him as the favourite but that doesn’t appear to have affected Oliveira’s confidence,

“Every fighter and everyone who watches MMA knows who the lightweight champion is. His name is Charles Oliveira. That won’t change,” said the Brazilian.

Oliveira believed he demonstrated he was the real champion with that emphatic win over Oliveira,

“I showed them I’m the true champion,” he explained.


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Rags to riches

While the title might technically be vacant Oliveira makes it clear that he still considers himself to be the champion,

“I’m going for another title defense. I’m not going back to win a title. I’m going to defend it. Nobody can take that out of my head. Charles is still the lightweight champion.”

Given the adversity that Oliveira has overcome to become the UFC lightweight champion losing the belt on a technicality seems like a minor road bump. He grew up in poverty and was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and heart murmur and warned that he could become a paraplegic as a youngster.

Having overcome such vast obstacles to reach the pinnacle of the sport, the Sao Paulo-native is proud to be an inspiration to his people.

“I dreamt of this. To be famous. Certainly, with fame and the opportunities that show up. People can see that it is real,  a boy who left the favelas and went into the world, achieving his dream. They look up to this and it makes me really happy.”