Monday, June 21, 2021

Charles Oliveira’s 27 UFC Fights Before Title Shot May Never Be Topped

Charles Oliveira is now the proud owner of a UFC lightweight championship belt. He defeated Michael Chandler on Saturday night at UFC 262 to win the title. Chandler had only one fight in the UFC before he received this title shot. Oliveira, on the other hand, was a very different story.

Oliveira had competed in 27 UFC fights before his name was called for this championship opportunity. This has set a record for most non-title fights in the organization before being in a title fight. Oliveira certainly put in the work, and this same circumstance, with this great number of fights, is unlikely to happen again. 

Charles Oliveira came to the UFC back in 2010 and strung together two wins in a row. Following that, he had a mix of wins and losses, with the most wins in a row being four from 2014-2015. None of this was enough to get him close to a title shot at the time, but in 2018, that is when this most recent and longest winning streak began.

UFC champs who took long road to gold: Oliveira, Bisping, more
Charles Oliveira, UFC 262, Getty Images

Oliveira started to work his way up the rankings and fight more notable opponents. Winning over big names was his thing, and that is what got him the title shot. If he were to have lost to Kevin Lee or Tony Ferguson, the title shot probably would have never come. 

The lightweight division is so stacked at the top that this opportunity seemed to have been orchestrated perfectly. Khabib Nurmagomedvov retired, Dustin Poirier wanted a rematch with Conor McGregor, and Oliveira slid into the title fight. Too many times in the UFC we see title shots get handed to fighters who are big draws. If a fighter comes into the UFC and wins three in a row, they will start to receive some fame and traction. Especially if that fighter is a good trash talker and has a good social media presence, that can lead to a quick title shot or at least a shot at a highly ranked opponent. 

If the fighter is someone who is quiet, a good prospect, but maybe not winning every fight, then that person is at a higher risk of getting cut. The likelihood of a fighter being able to win some and lose some on their way to 27 fights with the company and not have drawing power, such as Oliveira in his early career, is not likely these days. It’s about winning, talking, or walking when it comes to fighting in the UFC. 

We may see fighters who are unaffectionately referred to as “gatekeepers,” having many fights in the UFC without a title shot, but the odds of them fighting the top-ranked fighters without stringing together enough wins to warrant a title shot is unlikely. If you are constantly in the top ten, then you should feasibly be able to work your way up to the title shot. That being said, it works the opposite way too: lose too many and you work your way down and eventually out.

Let’s look at Jimmie Rivera as an example, He was very close to a title fight when he fought Marlon Moraes. Many thought that if he won that fight, he could have been next for the title shot. Instead, he lost. And since then, he has lost three of five. Now, he is ranked 12th because of those three losses. He could very well work his way back up to the top with three or even four good wins, and that would put him at around 13-14 UFC fights. This is still a long way off from 27. 

Maybe a young gun will come in and slip through with wins and losses. With a record that is so-so, enough to bounce around the top ten without ever making it to the top five, would that type of fighter ever be good enough to warrant a title shot? Maybe, but it is rare. Especially now with so many good new fighters being brought in every day. Charles Oliveira could turn out to be that one exceptionally rare diamond in the rough.