HUSTON – It took more than 10 years, an unsuccessful drop in weight class and more than its fair share of ups and downs. But Charles Oliveira is finally the UFC champion.
Oliveira finished Michael Chandler through TKO in 19 seconds from the second round on Saturday night in the main event of UFC 262 at the Toyota Center. With the win, Oliveira grabbed the vacant UFC lightweight title.
“I told you I was going to knock him out and I came and knocked him out,” Oliveira said in an interview after a shootout with an interpreter. “I have proved to everyone that I am the lion of lions.”
In the opening seconds of the second round, Oliveira released Chandler with a left hook and then hit him with blows to the ground, as Chandler tried to get out with all his might. He couldn’t. Oliveira landed as referee Dan Miraliot pulled him out, calling him an EYE.
Khabib Nurmagomedov, the greatest lightweight fighter in UFC history, retired undefeated after defeating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 last October. He relinquished the lightweight title earlier this year, when the withdrawal was officially official. Nurmagomedov has been the UFC lightweight champion since April 2018.
Oliveira has been in the UFC for more than 10 years since she was 20 years old. This was his first title. Chandler, meanwhile, has been in the UFC for just eight months, a Bellator star who signed as a free agent last year.
Entering ESPN, Oliveira ranked No. 3 in the world in the lightweight category, and Chandler – No. 4.
Oliveira (31-8, 1 NC) won nine in a row and was recognized as one of the best performers in MMA history. The Brazilian-born has the most wins so far in the UFC (14) and the most performance bonuses in the history of promotions (10). He now has the most finals in UFC history (16). He is 10-1 since returning to the lightweight division after a disastrous stay in the pen.
The 31-year-old Oliveira is nicknamed “do Bronx” – essentially meaning “from the ghetto” in Portuguese – and he is proud that he did not have to leave his home in Guaruja to achieve high results in MMA. He now has a gold belt to take home with him.
“Michael, you’re a great champion,” Oliveira said. “But today was my day. Favela, he’s ours.”
Chandler (22-6) won three consecutive appearances, including a landslide victory in the first round of the TKO over Dan Hooker in his UFC debut at UFC 257 in January. This final proved that it is more than real, which many who follow the sport closely have known for years. The Missouri native is a former three-time Bellator lightweight champion and has victories over former UFC champions Benson Henderson and Eddie Alvarez. The 35-year-old Chandler holds the record for most finals in Bellator’s history (13).
“We’ll get it back,” Chandler said. “In the end, we will win this one.”