Khabib Nurmagomedov said Islam Makhachev will “ride Charles Oliveira like his horse” and win the UFC lightweight title Saturday. Makhachev even questioned if the Brazilian would show up in Abu Dhabi for UFC 280.
Oliveira “doesn’t give a sh*t” about that, his head coach Diego Lima told MMA Fighting, and all the mind games played by the Russian talents ahead of one of the most anticipated fights of the year.
“We know Charles is the target today, he’s the No. 1, he’s the champion, so they want to promote this fight,” Lima said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca. “I don’t know if they think they would get inside Charles’ head, [mess up] his mind, but Charles doesn’t give a sh*t. Everything Charles has been through, where he came from, someone saying a bunch of crap won’t get him like, ‘Oh, it affected my head.’ Quite the opposite. Honestly, Charles doesn’t give a sh*t about what they say or don’t say.
“I see all this crap, but it’s part of their show. They wanna sell the fight this way. Khabib was always a quiet guy that would do instead of talk, and he changed his behavior to promote his cousin. It’s part of the show they’re doing, and it only adds responsibility to them. We’re more relaxed and adapted than ever.”
Oliveira, who doesn’t hold the UFC lightweight championship going into UFC 280 due to a weight miss prior to his win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 274, looks for his 12th straight victory inside the octagon. Makhachev, unbeaten in his last 10, earned a shot at the gold after beating Bobby Green and Dan Hooker in the past year.
“It’s hard to [say if Makhachev is Oliveira’s toughest fight], because Charles is the No. 1 and everybody is studying him,” Lima said. “Everybody studies you when you’re on top. Charles is where everybody wants to be, so his next fight will always be the toughest and most dangerous. It’s like a video game. Every time you beat the enemy, the next one is worst.
“Makhachev has fought tough guys, but never a top-5. Maybe he got to the belt because Khabib talks a lot. If it wasn’t for Khabib, maybe it would have been [Beneil] Dariush [vs. Oliveira], I don’t know. But Makhachev is tough and has good wrestling, good jiu-jitsu, as well. Khabib says all those things about sambo and jiu-jitsu, but Makhachev has jiu-jitsu. A friend of mine that trained jiu-jitsu with [Makhachev] said he has good jiu-jitsu.”
“He has that game they all have of good pressure on top,” he continued. “I believe that’s one of the reasons why he wanted so bad that this fight was here. If it was some place else the referee would stand them back, but here he knows he can stay on top all the fight and the referee won’t separate and stand them back up. All of them, Khabib, Makhachev, they all have this game of pressure, but everybody knows Charles’ ground. Charles has done a lot of jiu-jitsu and submission matches, no surprise he has the record for most submissions in the UFC. Makhachev obviously has good ground game, otherwise he wouldn’t be in the UFC. Makhachev’s striking is good, and so is his wrestling. But Charles is better in all areas.”
Lima said “do Bronx” and the team won’t look past Makhachev and get overexcited about the possibility of headlining UFC 283 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Jan. 21, but said that’s the plan in case he comes out of this fight uninjured.
“I don’t know exactly how the fight ends but it starts on the feet and I see him knocking [Makhachev] out,” Lima said. “It they grapple, I see him catching [Makhachev]. If the fight started with them on their knees, he would catch him right there, but since it starts with them on their feet and Charles’ knockout power is absurd… You all see that. Gaethje himself said nobody hurt him like Charles did.
“Charles hurts people. He doesn’t have only one strike that hurts. He punches hard, he kicks hard, he elbows hard, he knees hard. He’s landing hard on the feet, and since the fight starts standing, I see Charles knocking him out.”