Professional sports are never solely about what happens on the field, court, ice, ring, or Octagon. Those who realize that stick around and have successful careers, some even becoming superstars in their craft. The others fade away, wondering why their ability to hit a curveball a mile wasn’t enough.
So when athletes come to the UFC, it isn’t enough to just be able to fight. There’s a lot more involved, something Charles Oliveira has discovered firsthand over his nearly three years in the organization.
“Oh, I learned so much,” he said. “Paperwork, cutting weight, travel, interviews, press. There is always so much to do in addition to training.”
The fact that Brazil’s “Do Bronx” is still here and fighting in a UFC 162 co-main event against Frankie Edgar on Saturday lets you know that he’s picked up those lessons well. And despite some ups and downs along the way, the 23-year-old has remained a cool customer in and out of the Octagon.
“I am very young, but I have been fighting for a long time,” said Oliveira, who turned pro in 2008 at the age of 18. “I have great coaches that keep me prepared and I train to be ready for anything. For this fight I am ready for anything. When you are prepared, it’s very easy to keep your cool.”
Oliveira will need every ounce of that cool against Edgar, a former lightweight champion and current member of the pound-for-pound list who is hungry to get back in the win column after razor-thin losses to Benson Henderson (twice) and Jose Aldo. Oliveira has enough motivation of his own in that department as he looks to shake off a September 2012 loss to Cub Swanson. And while he’s been out nearly a year, he doesn’t believe ring rust will be an issue come Saturday night.
“I am fight ready all the time,” he said. “I train year around, so when the UFC calls I always want to be ready. I had time to focus on other important things (over the last 10 months), but I always want to compete. I would fight every month if UFC would let me; fighting is fun for me.”
It’s even more fun when there’s a big name across the Octagon from him, and at this point in the featherweight division, few are bigger than Edgar. Was it surprising when he got the call that in his first fight back he would be taking on New Jersey’s finest?
“I was very excited to hear that I get to fight a champion like Frankie Edgar on a big PPV card,” said Oliveira, whose level of respect is evident simply by his reference to his opponent as a champion. “Frankie is a champ for reason. He has big wins against the best fighters in the world. I will have to be at my best when I fight him.”
When Oliveira is at his best, he’s something to see, as he’s a dynamic groundfighter and striker who is looking for the finish from the time the bell sounds. Edgar, on the other hand, takes a little time to warm up, usually fighting his best in the championship rounds. The problem is, there are no championship rounds on Saturday, so it’s imperative for Edgar to start as fast as Oliveira does. That could make for an instant classic, and Oliveira plans on doing his part. But at the same time, he doesn’t see Edgar as being such a slow starter.
“I would not call him a slow starter,” he said. “He is always aware of where he is at in the fight. But I do like to set the pace, and I’m always looking to finish the fight as fast as possible. The plan is always finish the fight as fast as possible.”
If he can do that against a former world champion who has never been finished, then we might be seeing Oliveira going from co-main events to the top of the bill sooner rather than later. After almost three years in the UFC, that’s one lesson he knows best.
“Frankie is a champion,” he said. “A win would help my chances of getting a title shot soon.”
Prime Time for Charles Oliveira
"Frankie is a champion. A win would help my chances of getting a title shot soon." - Charles Oliveira