Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev were involved in a tense final face-off on Friday ahead of their headline title bout at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
Dagestan’s Makhachev, hugely popular in the region already, was clearly enjoying the majority of support from the crowd on Friday, at the same venue that will host one of the year's most highly anticipated cards.
“Abu Dhabi give some noise,” Makhachev called to the fans inside the arena. “We’re going to do this tomorrow, Inshallah.”
The No 4-ranked lightweight contender, who rides a 10-fight win streak including two victories in Abu Dhabi, contests his first championship bout.
Oliveira, meanwhile, is the division’s most recent champion. The Brazilian, who has reeled off 11 consecutive victories, was stripped of the belt when he missed weight before his clash with Justin Gaethje in May. Oliveira went on to defeat Gaethje by first-round submission.
After stepping on the scales on Friday afternoon – he was first out at the official weigh-in that morning - Oliveira declared amid boos from the crowd: ‘The lion waits. It’s still roaring.”
UFC 280 features two title bouts, with bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling defending against former two-time belt-holder TJ Dillashaw. The third-final encounter at Etihad Arena on Saturday night sees fast-rising star Sean O’Malley go up against former bantamweight champion Petr Yan.
UFC 280 represents the promotion’s return to Abu Dhabi for the first time since October last year.