Former lightweight champion Charles Oliveira will finally get a chance to win back his belt when he faces the highly-touted Islam Makhachev in the UFC 280 main event on Sunday.
Oliveira (33-8, 1 NC) was stripped of his title at UFC 274 in May after missing weight, going on to take care of Justin Gaethje in the first round but still a champion without his crown.
That could change on Sunday, although he faces a stern test in Makhachev (22-1) — one of the UFC’s rising stars.
Makhachev, who is coming into Sunday’s fight on a 10-fight win streak, will be looking to silence his doubters who would claim he has not faced elite competition to deserve a title shot.
Watch UFC280: Oliveira v Makhachev LIVE on Main Event available on Kayo, Sunday 23 October from 15am AEST. ORDER NOW >
Ultimate 280 preview: Charles the GOAT? | 06:49
That is at least what Oliveira seems to think, telling UFC 280 Embedded that he believes Makhachev only got the fight because of his connection to former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“I think we have to respect my opponent. Islam is coming with a 10-fight win streak. He is very smart with his game,” Oliveira said.
“However, I think he’s been surfing a wave that is not his, but Khabib’s. That’s the truth. This match is happening because Khabib made it happen. Not by Islam’s own merit. Because, in my opinion, he should be fighting against a top five contender.”
But here he is, with a chance to usurp Oliveira, although the two clashed earlier in the week over Makhachev’s claim that he asked for the fight to take place in Du Bronx’s native Brazil.
“When they announce the fight in Brazil, I ask Dana, ‘Please, my team is ready,’” Makhachev said.
“‘Let’s go. I want to make this in Brazil.’ We ask about Brazil many times. If you don’t know this, ask Dana.”
Oliviera though fired back: “This fight was not meant to happen in Brazil. You guys are just bullsh***ing all the time”.
“In no moment, you never wanted this fight to be in Brazil. You never mentioned Brazil,” he added.
That is not the only drama on Sunday’s main card though, with T.J. Dillashaw (18-4) and Aljamain Sterling (21-3) also arguing in the lead-up to their bantamweight championship fight.
At the heart of the pair’s disagreement was continuing allegations Dillashaw is facing about performance enhancing drug use.
‘You can test these nuts in your mouth’ | 00:35
Sunday’s fight will be Dillashaw’s second since a two-year suspension from the United States Anti-Doping Agency after admitting to using EPO (recombinant human erythropoietin).
Sterling though decided to put the attention on Dillashaw’s past at the pre-fight press conference, declaring he believes something “fishy” could be going on.
“Actually, I’ve got a couple questions,” Sterling said to the crowd in Abu Dhabi.
“So you guys are all familiar with the Embedded episodes. For some reason, I haven’t seen T.J. in any of the Embedded episodes.
“That’s how he got caught last time. I wonder if there’s something going on that it might be a little fishy, T.J.?”
“Look, I’ve come to terms with it,” Dillashaw replied, refusing to deflect from his past before firing a few shots of his own at Sterling.
“It’s time now. You’re going to get your ass whooped by a cheater, motherf*****. He’s so worried he can come test me himself. He can test these nuts in his mouth.”
There will be plenty of fireworks in the octagon of course too, as Sterling looks to defend his bantamweight belt against the former champion.
In another intriguing fight earlier in the main card, Sean O’Malley (15-1, 1 NC) faces his greatest challenge yet as he takes on Petr Yan (16-3).
Yan & O’Malley get physical at presser | 00:42
Yan, a former bantamweight champion, is second-ranked in the division and 10 spots ahead of O’Malley, who was hoping to continue his rise with a win over Pedro Munhoz earlier this year.
That fight though came to an abrupt end after an accidental eye poke, with O’Malley having to wait for a chance at a signature win that could catapult him into a title shot.
That comes this weekend against the dangerous Yan, but O’Malley has been waiting for this moment.
“I’m going to surprise a lot of people in this fight,” O’Malley told Sports Illustrated.
“You’re going to see how good I actually am. People know I’m a certain level, but I believe I’m a level even above what they expect. This is going to be my breakout fight, and who better to do it against than the guy that’s looked at as the scariest bantamweight in the division?”
OLIVEIRA v MAKHACHEV TALE OF THE TAPE
MMA record: Oliveira 33-8 (1 NC), Makhachev 22-1
Age: Oliveira 33, Makhachev 31
Height: Oliveira 5’10”, Makhachev 5’10”
Weight: Oliveira TBC, Makhachev TBC
Reach: Oliveira 74”, Makhachev 70”
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WHEN DOES UFC 280 START?
The main card starts at 5am AEDT
The prelims start at 1am AEDT
UFC 280 CARD
Main card (from 5am AEDT)
Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev – lightweight championship
Aljamain Sterling (c) vs. TJ Dillashaw – bantamweight championship
Petr Yan vs. Sean O’Malley – bantamweight
Beneil Dariush vs. Mateusz Gamrot – lightweight
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Manon Fiorot – women‘s flyweight
Preliminary card (from 1am AEDT)
Belal Muhammad vs. Sean Brady – welterweight
Makhmud Muradov vs. Caio Borralho – middleweight
Nikita Krylov vs. Volkan Oezdemir – light heavyweight
Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lucas Almeida – featherweight
Abubakar Nurmagomedov vs. Gadzhi Omargadzhiev – welterweight
Armen Petrosyan vs. AJ Dobson – middleweight
Muhammad Mokaev vs. Malcolm Gordon – flyweight
Karol Rosa vs. Lina Länsberg – women‘s bantamweight
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