Will Charles Oliveira prove to be the toughest opponent of Justin Gaethje’s career?
Probably not, based on recent comments from “The Highlight,” who still holds former lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov as his most dangerous rival to date. “The Eagle” submitted Gaethje at UFC 254 — then retired — back in late 2020.
Nurmagomedov ended his career at 29-0 with 19 finishes.
“They’re definitely not the same athlete,” Gaethje said (via MMA Fighting). “And Charles certainly is not more dangerous than Khabib. His ability to take damage is not the same, proven through the times we’ve seen him fight. All my criticism of Charles is from a kid that we were talking about, that we all watched grow, and now we’re talking about a man with confidence. It’s a different person, but ultimately the same Charles is still there.”
Oliveira (32-8, 1 NC) captured the title vacated by Nurmagomedov by smashing Michael Chandler at UFC 262, then defended the belt with a submission victory over Dustin Poirier at UFC 269. Next stop: a five round headliner against Gaethje in the UFC 274 main event.
“The same Charles that fought Cub Swanson. The same Charles that fought Donald Cerrone. The same Charles that fought [Anthony] Pettis. Choices were made by him and the choice to quit was made, and I’m going to give him that choice on Saturday night,” Gaethje continued. “Once a coward always a coward. I’m not calling him a coward, but I’m saying that’s — you can’t just take that away. It’s there. Khabib never showed you that, and that’s why you can’t compare those two.”
Gaethje (23-3) rebounded from his Nurmagomedov loss to outlast the aforementioned Chandler in their “Fight of the Night” banger at UFC 268 last November. “The Highlight” has 20 finishes in 23 wins — 19 by way of knockout/technical knockout.
The UFC 274 pay-per-view (PPV) takes place this Sat. night (May 7) in Phoenix.
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