Reigning Rizin lightweight champion Roberto de Souza has discussed his rivalry with Charles Oliveira and talked about facing the UFC’s top 155lber in an MMA bout. The Brazilian opened up on the subject in an interview with MMA Mania.

Oliveira is the de facto UFC lightweight champion although he doesn’t technically hold the belt after missing weight ahead of his last fight. According to de Souza the two have a rivalry that goes a long way back,

“I fought him in jiu-jitsu when I was a blue belt. I fought him I think six times but really, his weight division was one under mine. Sometimes he’d come into my division just to fight me. When I fight him at blue belt, he was already a very dangerous guy.”

While the two were rivals they are now firm friends,

“He and I have a very nice friendship now. Sometimes I talk to him, sometimes his coach motivates me when I’m going to fight.”

Jumping ship

In the past Rizin champions have jumped ship in order to sign with the UFC. Newly crowned bantamweight title holder Manel Kape and long term light heavyweight king Jiri Prochazka both did it.

But de Souza isn’t in a hurry to test himself against Oliveira and isn’t even sure if is a fight he wants,

“I think it’s hard if one day I have a chance to fight him, I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to fight him, you know. Maybe one day just to make money, for sure. I want to show to the world I can strike like a Charles ‘Da Bronx’ too.”

He sees parallels between his career and that of Oliveira. De Souza believes that both Brazilians are underrated,

“He motivates me a lot because he’s very strong, he’s very good but people still don’t believe in him, too. I feel this is similar to me.”

New challenge

While he isn’t in a hurry to leave Rizin he does want to face fighters from other promotions. He has won seven fights out of eight for the promotion and recently avenged his only loss.

Johnny Case was the only fighter to ever beat de Souza but he made quick work of the UFC veteran in the rematch at Rizin 35 recently. Having effectively cleared out the lightweight division he is hoping to get the opportunity to take on Bellator’s best 155lbers,

“I want to fight the top fighters in the world. I always say I want to go to the top, not what’s in the back. I like fighting the top guys, it’s harder, for sure. But I have more motivation in training.”

It is difficult to see a lightweight fight against anyone currently on the Rizin roster that de Souza would not be a big favourite for. But the Brazilian relishes the role of the underdog and opportunities to prove people wrong.

He wants to fight the ‘best guys’ in the worlds and thinks that bringing in Bellator lightweights would be the best way to make it happen.

“I like the fights where people don’t believe in me. People say, ‘Ah, for sure he doesn’t want this fight.’ I like that, I like when I’m the underdog. I want to fight the Bellator guys too, you know? Whatever, whoever. The double title shot is so fun, the Rizin belt, the Bellator belt. For me, whatever. I just want to fight the best guys in the world.”