Reigning UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira cemented his status as king of the 155-pound division by turning away former interim titleholder Dustin Poirier in the UFC 269 pay-per-view (PPV) main event last weekend at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
His victory over “The Diamond” cleared the way for a Justin Gaethje title fight in early 2022, unless the organization wants to promote a comeback story for ex-champion Conor McGregor, who remains the biggest PPV draw in the history of cage fighting.
“If I had the chance to fight Conor for money today, I would,” Oliveira told MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca. “Of course, no one’s a fool. ‘No, I’ll fight someone else because of the belt, leave Conor alone’ — who’s going to do that? Only a fool. If I had the opportunity to fight Conor, I would definitely fight Conor. The belt is mine regardless. The division has to get by and wait a little bit. There’s nothing else to do. We have to think about our families, our children, think about what we can do down the line.”
It would be difficult for UFC to justify another title shot for the struggling (and surgically-repaired) McGregor, who only holds one victory at 155 pounds, has lost three of his last four bouts, and barely made the division Top 10 in the latest rankings update.
At the same time, MMA is prize fighting and does not play by the same rules as most sports. If the promotion can bank another blockbuster PPV while McGregor remains a bona fide draw, then top contenders like Gaethje will have no choice but to wait.