Khabib Nurmagomedov dismisses the idea that Charles Oliveira is currently on his level in the greatest lightweight debate. Oliveira has strung together 11 consecutive victories, including 10 finishes, on the road to capturing and defending the UFC lightweight championship. Thrilling performance after thrilling performance has people, CBS Sports included, measuring Oliveira’s resume against Nurmagomedov’s. The retired, undefeated champion believes those comparisons are premature.
Nurmagomedov (29-0) is somewhat impressed by what Oliveira has accomplished by defeating the likes of Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler, Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee. What troubles Nurmagomedov is how much damage Oliveira has taken during his championship campaign.
“He impressed me like little bit, but every fight he goes down,” Nurmagomedov told ESPN. “This one is a little bit bad for him. Every fight he goes down, couple of times. Last fight, it was like, how many? Two, three times knockdowns? With Michael Chandler, with Dustin Poirier, with Justin Gaethje, he always goes down. This is like a little bit questionable, you know. Nobody ever touched my face, and all the time he go down. People cannot talk about like compare me vs. Charles Oliveira.
“When he tapped to Jim Miller, Anthony Pettis, Holloway… it was Charles Oliveira. It was not Khabib. If you want to deserve the name greatest lightweight, he has to beat Islam [Makhachev], Beneil [Dariush], a couple more guys, and then we can talk. He has to be a professional and make weight when he has a championship belt.”
Nurmagomedov credits Oliveira (33-8, 1 NC) for reinventing himself, bouncing back from eight career losses and rounding out his game.
“What he’s doing, this is very impressive,” Nurmagomedov said. “How he came back from so many losses, and now he has good ground, he has good striking game. Knees, elbows, kicks, he looks good. That’s why I really want to see him vs. Islam. This is like a big test for both of them.”
Oliveira was stripped of the UFC lightweight championship at UFC 274 after missing weight by 0.5 pounds. Oliveira’s first-round finish of Gaethje secured him the next title shot against a to-be-determined opponent. Nurmagomedov acknowledges Oliveira as the uncrowned lightweight king but suggests that “Do Bronx” has not earned the right to call himself the undisputed champion.
“If Charles wins against Islam, we have to give him credit,” Nurmagomedov said. “Then he’s going to be undisputed UFC lightweight champion. Right now, I believe he’s champion. I believe even this. People talk about the half-pound. I believe he deserved it. Right now, in this moment, he deserved to be champion. He’s doing a very good job, you know? But he’s not undisputed. When I finished, I was undisputed.”