Charles Oliveira’s path to UFC gold was a grueling, hard-earned one. The winner of eight straight heading into UFC 262, no one was questioning whether Oliveira had earned his right to vie for the vacant lightweight title in the main event. The same cannot be said for his opponent, Michael Chandler, whose candidacy for lightweight champion status rubbed many the wrong way, including some of his peers.
The debates about Chandler’s worthiness would become moot when Oliveira went on to complete the comeback win via second-round TKO after a shaky first round. Naturally, the prior champion Khabib Nurmagomedov watched the entire episode unfold and was pleased to see its ending (h/t MMA Mania).
“He seems to have eight wins in a row,” Khabib said of Oliveira in an interview with Sport 24. “So many early finishes. As I remember, only against Tony Ferguson did he have a full fight. I think Oliveira is a very worthy champion. Many finishes, many records in the UFC. It would be a shame if Michael Chandler won. Two fights in the UFC and already a champion? That would somehow be wrong. And Charles Oliveira has progressed very much. This is a worthy champion. I’m glad for him.”
Despite falling short of claiming lightweight gold at UFC 262, it still may not be long before the former Bellator champion earns another UFC title opportunity. Dana White and Michael Chandler have hinted that a top-5 opponent is most likely next for the #4-ranked lightweight, with Justin Gaethje’s name thrown around by both parties.
A victory over the #2-ranked Gaethje could possibly lead to two title shots in four total UFC fights for Chandler. Such a statistic would most likely have Khabib and other champions of meritocracy crying foul and once again cheering on the red corner to stand victoriously over “Iron” Mike.