LAS VEGAS – For the past 11 years, Charles Oliveira has been the one chasing gold. Now that he enters a fight week as the one holding the belt, the Brazilian veteran says little has changed from his point of view.
“I’m very happy,” Oliveira told MMA Junkie through an interpreter at a UFC 269 pre-fight news conference Wednesday at the UFC Apex. “Was happy with what happened, and we understand how important it is to defend a title, but just bring the happiness into into the octagon and just continue on my path.”
Of course, even if things haven’t changed for “Do Bronx” from his point of view, he admits that claiming the UFC lightweight title in May did change things around him. But he thinks the key to handling it all is remaining true to himself.
“Of course they changed,” Oliveira said. “More people are starting to follow you. More sponsors come around, but, you know, very humble. I took this opportunity to – of course, I took advantage of the hype, but always being humble, always being the person that I am from, where I am from, the community where I come from, and again continue on my path, that legacy.”
On Saturday, Oliveira (31-8 MMA, 19-8 UFC) seeks the first defense of his belt when he takes on fellow longtime veteran Dustin Poirier (28-6 MMA, 20-5 UFC) in the pay-per-view headliner of UFC 269 at T-Mobile Arena. The Brazilian says he enters the matchup with great respect for his opponent but also full confidence in his own skills.
“He’s a tough fighter,” Oliveira said of Poirier. “Yeah, we understand he’s a tough and complete fighter. Very strong, his boxing, brings a lot of wrestling, and everyone knows he likes to take fights to five rounds. But I care about what I can do and about what we can bring to the game, and that’s what we’re going to do with continuing just like him. That’s what matters, is what I’m going to do in this fight.”
Despite coming in as the titleholder, Oliveira is actually the underdog in the matchup, according to oddsmakers, with Tipico.com listing Poirier as a -170 favorite, implying a 63 percent probability of victory for “The Diamond.”
Oliveira said he understands the respect Poirier receives but thinks perhaps the public may still be sleeping on his skills just a bit.
“As I said, he’s a tough fighter,” Oliveira said. “I understand he brings a lot of things, but you have seen how much I can bring into the fights. For example, I’m always very tough on the ground, but you’ve seen how I’ve evolved standing up, and that’s all I care about. I care about what I bring in when I try to do my my job.”
A victory over a proven commodity like Poirier would certainly be massive for Oliveira’s reputation. But as far as Oliveira is concerned, the belt being around his waist isn’t some fluke.
“I think to each his own,” Oliveira said. “I mean, I proved myself as a champion, nine straight wins, record in bonuses, record in knockouts, so I just think that I’ve proved myself up to this point and all I have to do right now is defend it. … I’ve proven myself as a champion.”
As for what comes after UFC 269, Oliveira said he didn’t want to speculate. Poirier offers a very real challenge, and Oliveira wants to give him the respect he deserves. But the Brazilian did say he’s planning to defend the belt frequently and has no intention of slowing down his pace simply because he’s holding the belt.
“One thing at a time and focused on the moment,” Oliveira said. “I think that, you know, after this fight with Dustin Poirier – a tough guy, but I’m going to take care of him – but after that, then we’re going to sit down and see and align what opponents we should be facing. But I’m a guy who likes to fight, and I don’t mind looking three, four times a year. I like to fight.”
UFC 269 takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.