UFC confirms ‘magical’ title scrap between Gaethje and Oliveira

The UFC has announced its next lightweight championship fight which will pit the division's ruler Charles Oliveira against Justin Gaethje at UFC 274.

The fight was confirmed on Saturday at UFC 272, where Colby Covington saw off fellow former welterweight title challenger Jorge Masvidal in a grudge match. 

Brazilian champion Oliveira will defend his 155lbs strap against his American foe at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona on May 7.

The winner could face former champion Conor McGregor, who is currently planning a comeback from a horrific leg break suffered in a trilogy bout defeat to Justin Poirier in January 2021.

Both men shared the fight's official poster on their social media networks. Gaethje was the far more excited of the pair, primising a "magical night" while counting down the remaining time to the bout, which he calculated as 90,700 minutes. 

For Oliveira, the meeting is his second title defense after finally becoming champion in a 32-8 career by knocking out Michael Chandler last May and submitting Poirier in December. 

The co-headline bout, which is a double-header with Oliveira's compatriot Glover Teixeira taking on Jiri Prochazka and defending his light-heavyweight crown for the first time, is also a second crack at top honors for Gaethje.

In October 2020, he was stopped by future Hall of Fame inductee Khabib Nurmagomedov in the Russian's final fight.

Nurmagomedov will be interested in the outcome of the clash, given Oliveira's realistic chance of matching Nurmagomedov's joint all-time lightweight title defenses tally of four.  

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Oliveira versus Gaethje is not just the champion taking on the number one ranked challenger, but also represents a great stylistic matchup. 

While Oliveira is a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt with excellent kickboxing pedigree training out of Diego Lima's Chute Boxe gym in Sao Paulo's southern suburbs, Gaethje is an explosive striker with a respectable wrestling background. 

"If my striking isn’t way better than his then I’m f*cked, per se," Gaethje told ESPN in December when their showdown was being talked about, referencing Oliveira beating two men with heavy hands in Chandler and Poirier.

"That’s where I’m great. I’m great at creating pressure, creating damage and stopping takedowns. So ultimately, he’s going to be trying to get it to the ground because I’m gonna find so much success in the striking department.

"He is incredibly dangerous in the striking department. His knees, his elbows. His ability to create pressure, control distance, [are] second to none. But I better be better. Or else I’m gonna be in a f*cking world of trouble."

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Gaethje also denied that he had said the UFC's all-time submissions and finishes leader "quits in the first or second round".

"The times I’m talking about is deep," he explained. "Deep in a fight when it gets rough, it gets hard. But that was the kid Oliveira was talking about anyways, so we’ll see.

"He’s proven me wrong up to this point but my job will be to prove myself right when I step in there with him. Make him quit."

McGregor showed interest last week in taking on Oliveira – nicknamed 'Do Bronx' – in July. 

Other highlights on the UFC 274 card include lightweight veteran Donald Cerrone taking on Joe Lauzon and ex-light heavyweight champion Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua facing Ovince Saint Preux.

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