An unexpected trilogy bout between Charles Oliveira and Nik Lentz will take place at Saturday’s UFC Rochester card, and Oliveira doesn’t seem too bothered about it.
Oliveira and Lentz met for the first time in 2011, when “do Bronx” was only 20 years young. The promising talent submitted Lentz with a rear-naked choke, but the result was later overturned to a no-contest due to an illegal knee to the head moments before the finish.
Four years after the match that awarded both athletes “Fight of the Night” bonuses, Oliveira and Lentz met for a second time, this time as featherweights, in the co-main event of UFC Goiania. Oliveira once again submitted the American talent, but without any controversy the second time around. “Do Bronx” earned two post-fight bonuses that night in Brazil.
Now, once again, four years have passed, and the UFC has decided to book them against one another for a third time.
“Everybody keep asking why I’m taking this fight,” Oliveira told MMA Fighting. “The UFC knows I want a top 15 [opponent], I’ve always asked for a ranked opponent after my fights, someone ranked ahead of me, but I guess the UFC wanted this fight because our previous fights were wars. I just have to be 100 percent ready on May 18 to show my evolution and get another win. Then I’ll definitely ask for someone in the top five, someone ranked, to get closer to my goal.”
Oliveira is coming off stoppage wins over Clay Guida, Christos Giagos, Jim Miller, and David Teymur. The Brazilian lightweight reigns supreme as the fighter with the most submissions in UFC history, and he appears to be tired of facing unranked lightweights.
“What matters the most to me is breaking into the top-10,” Oliveira said. “I think I deserve a ranked opponent, someone who gets me closer to the title. That’s what I want. I’m in the toughest division there is, fighting warriors, but I’ve been proving that I’m ready. Stop messing around sending me unranked fighters. I want someone ranked, someone that will take me closer to my goal, which is to become champion.
“I just want to win. It can be by knockout, submission, or decision. What matters to me is winning another one to enter the top 10.”
While some see no logic in this booking, especially with the way the first fights went down, Oliveira refuses to overlook an experienced lightweight like Lentz.
“A fight is a fight and anything can happen,” Oliveira said. “I have to be 100 percent focused. When we fought the first time, I was just a young boy in there — and I paid the price for that. The second fight was a war, I knocked him down and then submitted him. We both evolved a lot, but I think I’ve evolved more. My striking is way better now, and I expect a great fight. I can’t make mistakes.”
Headlined by welterweights Rafael dos Anjos and Kevin Lee, UFC Rochester takes place at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y., and will air live on ESPN+.