At a very young age, Charles Oliveira’s parents were told to be prepared for the fact of life that their son might lose the ability to walk. A combination of a heart murmur and a rheumatoid arthritis led to this frightening diagnosis.
These days, the fear that Olveira carries about is that which he strikes into the hearts of his opponents. The No. 3-ranked lightweight in the world, Oliveira will battle Michael Chandler at UFC 262 in Houston Texas on Saturday, May 15th for the vacant UFC world lightweight title. Oliveira is the -140 favorite to capture the belt in the latest UFC odds on the bout. He hasn’t lost a fight since 2017, riding an eight-match winning streak.
Instead of being finished as an athlete by his health issues, Oliveira has developed into a UFC finishing machine. He is the holder of a wealth of UFC records. His list of achievements include the most submissions (14), most end of night bonuses (16) and most performance of the night bonuses (10) in the history of the promotion. The Brazilian also owns a share of the UFC record for most finishes with 16.
“Charles Oliveira” by Getty Images is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Two Years In Hospital
The young Oliveira was basically the prisoner of a hospital bed for the better part of two years before he’d even reached puberty. “Doctors told my mom I couldn’t do sports anymore,” Oliveira told MMAfighting.com.
As a youngster, Oliveira dreamed the same vision as most Brazilian boys. He wanted to wear the sacred yellow and green jersey of Brazil’s national soccer team. He calls the same region home as Brazilian soccer legends Pele and Neymar.
“I loved soccer at the time, I had no idea what combat sports were, but stayed two years in the hospital,” Oliveira recalled. “It sucked because I couldn’t leave.
“My parents had to work so I basically stayed there by myself all morning. It was hard to get used to it.”
Released from hospital when he was 11, Oliveira was advised by medical personnel to avoid playing soccer, feeling the stress on his ankles would be too much to overcome. Instead, Oliveira turned to another popular Brazilian sporting pursuit, jiu-jitsu.
Eventually, after much success in jiu-jitsu competition, Oliveira opted to give mixed martial arts a try. He took to it naturally and was instantly successful, much in the same manner as his transition to jiu-jitsu had unfolded.
An Evolving Talent
It’s been more than three years since anyone other than Khabib Nurmagomedov could call himself UFC lightweight champion of the world. Oliveira has evolved into the well-rounded fighter who could very well be the next guy to lay claim to the belt.
Early on in his UFC career, Oliveira was hung with the label of grappling specialist. With all but four of his 18 UFC victories earned via submission, the handle was understandable.
However, during his current eight-fight winning streak, Oliveira is showing everyone that he’s spicing up his life with variety. There are now more tools in his toolbelt, more weapons in his arsenal.
Oliveira fights with an aggressive, attacking style and is a powerful enough striker to finish off a fight while standing on his feet.
“Charles Oliveira” by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Ready For His Close Up
Oliveira, 31, is a 10-year veteran of competition in the octagon. He’s posted a 30-8 MMA record and has suffered four knockout defeats. Prior to his current streak, Oliveira lost three of four fights and four of six.
It’s been a long journey for the Brazilian to get to this point, his first title bout. His crushing unanimous decision over Tony Ferguson at UFC 256 put Olveira in line for this title shot. If he takes care of business against Chandler, the former Bellator world champ who will be contesting just his second UFC bout, then Olveira likely puts himself in line for a huge payday from a title bout against the winner of the Dustin Poirier-Conor McGregor fight at UFC 264.
“I work hard every single day to have things I want,” Oliveira said. “I was too young when I got there and there was so much pressure over me. I’ve had my highs and lows. I’ve fought injured. I’ve missed weight. I’ve taken fights when I clearly shouldn’t. But I’ve learned from it.
“When I stop and think about all that, I think my family can be proud of everything I’ve done. I’m proud of myself. I came from nothing and look where I am now.”