Top-ranked lightweight Charles Oliveira is putting in the work in preparation for his headline title fight against Islam Makhachev in Abu Dhabi in October.
The Brazilian, the division’s most recent champion, meets the No 4-ranked contender in the main event at UFC 280 on October 22 at Etihad Arena. The encounter tops a stacked card in the capital, with bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling defending his belt against former title-holder TJ Dillashaw, while Petr Yan - another ex-champion at bantamweight – takes on the hugely talented Sean O’Malley.
On Wednesday night, the UFC released footage of Oliveira at the gym as he readies for his clash with Makhachev, with the Sao Paulo native later tweeting a picture of him in action with the tagline: “travellin’ and trainin’”.
Oliveira, 32, was stripped of the lightweight title in May when he missed weight ahead of his eventual victory against Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 – a triumph that extended his win streak to 11. Makhachev, meanwhile, is unbeaten in his past 10, and has fond memories of Abu Dhabi having won twice there already. The Dagestan athlete, 30, is one of the most popular fighters in the region.
Speaking to The National last month, Oliveira said: “I’m the one issue in the division. You have seen what happened in the last fight, so I’m here to make things happen, to stir things up.
“I’m not there to go after, to pursue, the belt. The belt is mine. I’m defending it. So, by doing that in the house of my competition, I’m communicating that I’m doing this whenever in the world.”
Also, in an interview published this week by ESPN, Oliveira said his “sole reason” for taking the Makhachev bout was to set up a fight with former champion Conor McGregor in Brazil next year.
“I like the narrative,” Oliveira said. “It would be perfect. We’ve been asking for this fight in Brazil so hopefully, it works out. I really do [think it will happen next year]. That’s the sole reason why I accepted this fight [with Makhachev]. I know the more victories, the better the chances so this is a step towards that fight.”
The UFC has confirmed 11 bouts for its return to Yas Island, which concludes Abu Dhabi Showdown Week. Tickets for UFC 280 were sold out within days of their release last month, with VIP packages still available.