Tell me UFC hasn’t matured as a sport without telling me UFC hasn’t matured as a sport. Here, I’ll start: we crown a new “greatest of all time” (GOAT) every two years — sometimes less — across multiple divisions. And you can ask 10 different MMA fans to name the sport’s creme de la creme and often get 10 different answers.
But that’s okay, it’s fun to argue about this stuff (unless you’re a BJ Penn fan).
Charles Oliveira (33-8, 1 NC) has a chance to cement his status as the greatest lightweight in history with a victory over top-ranked contender Islam Makhachev, replacing former 155-pound titleholder and oft-labeled GOAT Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0), who retired back in late 2020 after just three title defenses.
That’s according to former champion-turned-UFC analyst Michael Bisping.
“Greatest lightweight of all time? I think if Charles beats Islam this weekend, I think that belongs to Charles now,” Bisping said on his YouTube channel. “I really do. I think he will have surpassed him, simply because he’s taken out all the top contenders. And it’s not Khabib’s fault, but you cannot deny the numbers, the momentum, the history that Oliveira’s making.”
The 33 year-old Oliveira already holds UFC records for most finishes (19), most submissions (19), and most performance bonuses (18). The Brazilian is currently the winner of 11 straight against some of the best lightweights in the world with 10 of those victories ending by way of knockout or submission.
Working against him is a history of weight-cutting issues and eight career losses.
“Here’s the case for Khabib: his record, 29-0, 13-0 in the UFC, and he was one of the most dominant fighters that the UFC had ever seen,” Bisping continued. “In 60 career rounds, this man only lost two rounds. We never saw him lose to anyone, and he was so dominant it’s hard to imagine him losing to anyone. But he retired at 32 years old, after three title defenses and two and a half years as champion of the world. That’s fantastic but if he had stuck around longer would we have seen him lose the belt? Would we have seen him get challenged? We’ll never know, and that is one of the real arguments for Khabib not being the pound-for-pound No. 1.”
What Nurmagomedov did when he was UFC champion was great, he just didn’t do it long enough to erase all doubt. Part of that has to do with the current trajectory of Oliveira. With “The Eagle” clipping his wings for good, the general consensus is that beating Islam Makhachev at UFC 280 on Sat. (Oct. 22) in Abu Dhabi is the next best thing and the one fight that could settle the Nurmagomedov vs. Oliveira GOAT debate.
At least until this pound-for-pound “Great” moves up to 155 pounds.
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