According to Chael Sonnen, the champion doesn’t have a name, including “Charles Oliveira.”
At UFC 274 in May, Oliveira continued his incredible resurgence in the Octagon by adding an 11th victory to his active win streak, this time at the expense of Justin Gaethje, who was choked unconscious in Arizona.
But having narrowly missed weight the day before fight night, “Do Bronx” vacated the title at the start of the May 7 headliner and was unable to win it back against “The Highlight.”
Nevertheless, given talk of a faulty scale and similar instances in the past that many felt were treated differently, a sizable chunk of the MMA community, including fans, fighters, and pundits alike, have shared the sentiment that Oliveira is still the rightful titleholder at lightweight.
While he admitted to doing the same at times, Sonnen, a former two-division championship challenger in the UFC, recently claimed that still regarding Oliveira as the 155-pound king is a mistake during a video uploaded to his YouTube channel.
“It’s very important, in my opinion, that we understand 155 pounds for what it is, not what we want it to be. What it really is, is a division that does not have a champion, and we all forget that,” Sonnen said. “We all think Charles is the chief, and guys, we’re doing that to be nice.
“We don’t like the way that scale business went down. We don’t like the fact that he had a fight where the opponent could be champion if he won, Charles did what he does — we don’t like it. So, we’re kinda just sweeping it as a way of serving Charles,” Sonnen added. “We’re doing that to be nice. I think it’s a mistake and I think you’re under-serving him.”
Sonnen: Champion Status Is Affecting Oliveira’s McGregor Push
In explaining why he sees Oliveira maintaining an attachment to the gold as an error, Sonnen brought up the Brazilian’s desire to face former featherweight and lightweight champ Conor McGregor.
The fighter-turned-analyst also pointed to the words of Ali Abdelaziz, who manages top contenders Islam Makhachev and Beneil Dariush. The Egyptian has backed “Do Bronx” to face the Irishman, but so long as he relinquishes his place in the inevitable vacant title clash later this year.
“I spoke to Ali [Abdelaziz]. Ali made a very interesting point,” Sonnen noted. “(He said), ‘It appears that Charles really wants to fight Conor McGregor. We think Charles can get that fight. Give him a break, don’t make him fight Islam now. Let him do the Conor business… (But) we do not feel that should be for the championship.’ … I ask you to hold that thought. Because if you do wanna serve Charles, he wants to fight Conor. That is a life-changing night.
“To sell to the audience that that’s a world title fight, you could do, but you wouldn’t have to, and that’s what Ali’s point is. Ali does stand strong and practices what he preaches, which is play all the games you want in your career, (but) when you’re the champion, you fight anybody,” Sonnen continued. “Right now, Charles isn’t wanting to do that. He’s not as interested in an Islam match.”
With that in mind, Sonnen put forward the suggestion that continuing to brand Oliveira as the champion is loading pressure on the Brazilian to face Makhachev, rather than McGregor. That’s because should Oliveira push to face the Irishman for the belt, it’ll open up criticism surrounding the perceived ducking of the rightful and more deserving challengers.
“We keep acting as though (Oliveira) is (the champion). Every picture I see of Charles posted, he’s still got the belt,” Sonnen said. “We’re attempting to give the conclusion we wish was accurate, but guys, it’s not. And you might be serving Charles better (by not branding him champion). You would not have pressure on him.
“He wanted to go out and fight McGregor and he’s the champion of the world. That’s a problem. We understand it, big money night, we understand it. But first off, you’re gonna have to wait. We’re gonna have to slow the division down… Secondly, to not take on the true contenders, it’s gonna be a little bit of a problem,” Sonnen concluded.
While he’s consistently said that he’s keen to share the Octagon with the “Notorious” McGregor, Oliveira certainly hasn’t had the same enthusiasm for a potential vacant title fight with Makhachev, often suggesting that the Dagestani requires wins against top contenders before fighting for gold.
By not seeing “Do Bronx” as the lightweight throne-sitter, perhaps he’ll be freer to pursue the money fight that most believe he deserves without the pressure of facing the toughest challenges in the division first, and potentially compromising the opportunity.
Do you agree with Chael Sonnen’s take on Charles Oliveira?