A win at UFC 280 will rank Oliveira ahead of Khabib Nurmagomedov in the lightweight “Greatest Of All Time” conversation according to UFC Hall of Famer Michael Bisping.
The vacant championship Oliveira never lost, at least not in the octagon, will be contested by Islam Makhachev at UFC 280. Before his scheduled title defense against Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 this past May, Oliveira was stripped of the title after arriving at the scale at 155.5 pounds amid questions about its veracity.
Gaethje was eventually choked out by Oliveira (33-8 MMA, 21-8 UFC), proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he remains the finest lightweight in the world despite no longer holding the belt. In addition to the lost title, there may be other prizes up for grabs when he faces Makhachev on Saturday. With a victory, Oliveira will overtake Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“Greatest lightweight of all time? I think if Charles beats Islam this weekend, I think that belongs to Charles now,” Bisping said on his YouTube channel. “I really do. I think he will have surpassed him, simply because he’s taken out all the top contenders. And it’s not Khabib’s fault, but you cannot deny the numbers, the momentum, the history that Oliveira’s making.”
Oliveira is the holder of several UFC records, including victories by finishes, submissions, and bonuses. With 11 straight victories, 10 of which have been by finish including victories over Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler, Tony Ferguson, and Kevin Lee. "Do Bronx" is currently on an incredible winning streak. Compared to earlier in his career, when he suffered eight losses he has looked like a completely different fighter. Oliveira's one significant flaw is that he has lost eight times, including seven by decision, while Khabib has never lost in his professional career, as acknowledged by Bisping.
While a victory over Makhachev will strengthen Oliveira's case as the lightweight GOAT, Nurmagomedov's record is unparalleled as he concluded his career unblemished at 29-0 overall and 13-0 in the UFC before announcing his retirement in 2020. His victories over Gaethje, Poirier, Conor McGregor, Rafael dos Anjos, Al Laquinta, and Edson Barboza stand out among his victories.
“Here’s the case for Khabib: his record, 29-0, 13-0 in the UFC, and he was one of the most dominant fighters that the UFC had ever seen,” Bisping said. “In 60 career rounds, this man only lost two rounds. Round one against Justin Gaethje — very, very close — and round three against Conor McGregor — again, very, very close.”
Nurmagomedov, like Oliveira, does not, however, have a solid case for being a lightweight GOAT, with the biggest criticism being that he retired too soon. And it appears like Bisping is heavily influenced by this reasoning since he concludes that, despite the honorable nature of Nurmagomedov's motives for retirement, they nevertheless work against him.
“All we ever saw was him win and dominate people, but he retired at 32 years old after three title defenses and two-and-a-half-years as champion of the world,” Bisping said. “That’s fantastic, but if he had stuck around longer, would we have seen him lose the belt? Would we have seen him get challenged? We’ll never know, and that is one of the real arguments for Khabib not being the pound-for-pound No. 1. …
“The reality is, the reason we ask the question is because he didn’t stick around long enough. And we know why. It was a very honorable reason. He made a promise to his mother, and he stuck to that. Wow, what a guy. I respect that so much. But would he have beaten all these top new contenders? He’d have beaten some of them, but would he have beaten Charles? We don’t know. We can only imagine.”