When Khabib Nurmagomedov submitted Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, which led to a sudden and somewhat premature retirement, nobody in the MMA community was campaigning for “The Eagle” to stick around for one last title defense against Charles Oliveira.
That’s because “Do Bronx” had yet to break into the Top 5 at 155 pounds. In addition, the Brazilian was still two months away from his Tony Ferguson fight at UFC 256, which catapulted Oliveira into his UFC 262 headliner opposite Michael Chandler.
Sean O’Malley sees Charles Oliveira as the one man that could challenge a former UFC champion widely regarded as the best ever at 155 pounds.
Discussing Oliveira in an interview with Canal Encarada, O’Malley was asked what he thought about Oliveira’s chances against Khabib Nurmagomedov should the former lightweight king decide to come out of retirement.
Oliveira is the most recent UFC lightweight champion, but doesn’t currently hold that status in an official capacity. He was stripped of his UFC title ahead of his recent UFC 274 main event win over Justin Gaethje after he missed weight for the scheduled defense.
O’Malley likes Oliveira’s chances against the undefeated Nurmagomedov and went as far as to wonder if Oliveira’s rise through the ranks may have played a part in Nurmagomedov retiring in October 2020.
“That’s the one interesting fight that I would like to see if Khabib came back in the division,” O’Malley said. “It would be Charles. Everyone else I think Khabib kind of mauls. I think Charles is the only one that can really give Khabib problems and, who knows, maybe that’s why Khabib stepped away.
“Maybe he saw, ‘I don’t want that guy.’ Who knows, but yeah, that’s one fight that I would be interested in seeing Khabib come back for. It would be a massive fight.”
As for Oliveira losing his title on the scale due to a half-pound weight miss, O’Malley brushes off any talk of “Do Bronx” not being the rightful UFC lightweight champion.
“Charles is the champ and everyone knows it,” O’Malley said. “That’s just it. I don’t think anybody looks at him as not being the champ. I don’t think you can find one person that thinks he’s not the champ or wouldn’t call him the champ.
“I hope he got his pay-per-view money, I hope he is making the championship money going into the next fight. Everyone’s got to look at him as the champ, the fight’s he’s been doing, the performances he’s been putting on. Charles Oliveira’s the champ and everyone knows it.”
Up next for O’Malley, he fights Pedro Munhoz at UFC 276 on July 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Perhaps “Mystic Eagle” saw it coming?
“That’s the one interesting fight that I would like to see if Khabib came back in the division,” UFC bantamweight star Sean O’Malley told Canal Encarada (transcribed by Alexander K. Lee). “It would be Charles. Everyone else I think Khabib kind of mauls.”
“I think Charles is the only one that can really give Khabib problems and, who knows, maybe that’s why Khabib stepped away. Maybe he saw, ‘I don’t want that guy.’ Who knows, but yeah, that’s one fight that I would be interested in seeing Khabib come back for. It would be a massive fight.”
Oliveira, 32, is the winner of 11 straight with 10 finishes.
Nurmagomedov, now 33, retired with a perfect professional record of 29-0 and finished some of the biggest names in the division along the way, including Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, and the aforementioned Gaethje.