Charles Oliveira coach explains reason for risky Arman Tsarukyan fight at UFC 300

According to Charles Oliveira’s coach and manager, there would have been a greater ‘risk’ in choosing not to fight Arman Tsarukyan than in actually facing the rising contender.

It was announced this week that Oliveira, a former lightweight champion, will fight Tsarukyan in a No 1 contender’s bout at UFC 300 in April. The match-up represents an altogether different proposition for Oliveira than a rematch with reigning champion Islam Makhachev, which was initially in the Brazilian’s calendar for 2024.

Oliveira was in fact due to challenge Makhachev in October – 12 months after the Russian won the vacant belt by submitting Oliveira – but suffered a severe cut over his eye, leading to the cancellation of the fight. UFC president Dana White then revealed this week that Oliveira vs Makhachev 2 was set for 2024, but an injury to the champion has led to a change of plans.

No 1-ranked Oliveira will now face fourth-ranked Tsarukyan at UFC 300, with the winner due to challenge Makhachev later this year. It is possible, however, that Makhachev will defend his belt against Justin Gaethje in June, complicating the title picture somewhat.

Speaking about the decision for Oliveira to fight Tsarukyan instead of waiting for a rematch with Makhachev, the ex-champion’s coach and manager Diego Lima told MMA Fighting: “If you’re not seen, you’re not remembered. Let’s say we wait for Makhachev, but then [Tsarukyan], who’s on a good streak – a beautiful win over [Beneil] Dariush...

“We miss out on UFC 300, a historical card, and let’s suppose [Tsarukyan] knocks out [Justin] Gaethje or [Dustin] Poirier [...] We have to be smart. On top of that, Charles can’t stay out for that long. We can’t take risks and not fight.

“We had to fight once before Makhachev to stay on rhythm, to stay ready for Makhachev, and at the same time we can’t find a nobody, someone lower-ranked. We had to pick someone at the top. [Tsarukyan] was the main name for us to fight, and that’s why this fight was booked.

“Charles really loved this fight. He watches everything, and that’s one guy he likes to watch. Charles loves challenges. Charles’s career is for real. He’s always fought beasts ever since he got in the UFC, so that’s the best fight available for us, the best opportunity.”

Rising UFC lightweight contender Arman Tsarukyan (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Rising UFC lightweight contender Arman Tsarukyan (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Oliveira, 34, won the lightweight title by knocking out Michael Chandler in 2021, after Khabib Nurmagomedov vacated the belt upon his retirement from MMA in 2020. Oliveira then retained the gold against Dustin Poirier, submitting the American, before doing the same against Justin Gaethje in 2022. However, the latter result came one day after Oliveira was stripped of the title for narrowly missing weight.

Later in 2022, Oliveira faced Makhachev – Khabib’s friend and protege – for the vacant title and lost via submission. The Brazilian bounced back by knocking out Beneil Dariush in June 2023, while Makhachev went on to retain the title against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski twice.

On the latter occasion, Volkanovski was stepping in for Oliveira on short notice, after the Brazilian suffered the afore-mentioned cut over his eye. Makhachev knocked out Volkanovski in round one, having previously outpointed him in February.

Tsarukyan is on a three-fight win streak, and the 27-year-old is also a former opponent of Makhachev. The Armenian-Russian’s UFC debut came against Makhachev in 2019, when he lost a close decision. In his most recent fight, Tsarukyan knocked out Darisuh in round one in December.

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