The former champion was supposed to be the man rematching Makhachev this past Saturday, but after suffering a large cut above his eye on the day he was scheduled to fly out to Abu Dhabi, he was forced to withdraw. Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski stepped in on 12 days’ notice for a rematch of his own but lost to Makhachev via first-round knockout.
Shortly after news broke that Oliveira was out, he told MMA Fighting that he hopes to be ready to fight again soon, and he assumes his next opponent will still be Makhachev. He remained confident addressing the matter on The MMA Hour following UFC 294.
“Whoever the UFC says he’s going to fight, they’re going to fight,” Oliveira said through a translator. “Everybody knows I’m next. First in the rankings, coming off of a great win, and ready to fight like I was before. I was ready for that fight until [the cut] happened, and I’m next in line.”
Makhachev has a firm lineup of challengers awaiting him, with Oliveira expecting his rematch, Justin Gaethje campaigning for his shot, and official UFC 294 backup Mateusz Gamrot also possibly claiming a championship opportunity.
All Oliveira can do is wait, and if he ends up fighting someone else for an interim title, then so be it.
“No one has said anything,” Oliveira said when asked about any updates from UFC matchmakers. “They know who I am, they know what I’m all about, they know that I’m going to train to become a champion. I’m training and I’m getting ready for it. They know what I’m all about. I don’t fight for money. I fight to make history and I fight for my legacy. So I’m going to continue to train, continue to get prepared and try to get up to 100 percent just like I was right before this fight. When I’m 100 percent, that’s when I’ll be ready to fight.”
“I want the belt,” he later added. “Whoever’s got that belt, it doesn’t matter who has it. I want that belt.”
One takeaway that Oliveira had after UFC 294 is that the lightweight champion looks as formidable as ever. In their first meeting at UFC 280, Makhachev submitted Oliveira in the second round after dominating the majority of the fight to claim a vacant belt.
As disappointed as Oliveira was to not be the man in the octagon in Abu Dhabi, he couldn’t help but be impressed by both fighters.
“I’ve said this before,” he said. “This only goes to show with the things that I’ve said before, the evolution of Islam’s game standing up. What a read that he had of that fight. Start kicking low and just ended up kicking high.
“Kudos to him, all props to him, and also all the props as well to Volkanovski for actually taking that fight on short notice. All the respect to both of them, they’re great fighters, obviously Islam is a great champion, and all respect to both fighters. It shows his evolution as an MMA fighter.”