Charles Oliveira targets 'profitable' fight with Conor McGregor for vacant UFC belt

Charles Oliveira is no longer the UFC lightweight champion, courtesy of missing weight before UFC 274 last month. But he is still expected to compete for the title in his next bout. And if he has his way, Oliveira would face Conor McGregor for the vacant belt.

Oliveira told ESPN Brazil in an interview Tuesday that McGregor would be his first choice, because "fighting Conor is very profitable." Oliveira stopped Justin Gaethje via first-round submission May 7 in what was supposed to be a lightweight title contest, but the title remained vacant due to Oliveira missing weight.

"It would be a very good fight for me," Oliveira said of a McGregor fight. "It would put a lot of money in my pocket, and [at this moment] that's the most important thing. And it would also be really good for my legacy, for me to have in my story. Regardless, if he's coming from defeat or not, he's a guy who's made history, so I think it would be great, but it's not just up to me. If it were up to me, this fight would already be happening."

McGregor, the former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion, is still recovering from a broken leg he suffered last July at UFC 264 in a fight with Dustin Poirier. He would hardly be considered a top title contender. McGregor has exactly one UFC victory since 2016 and has not won a lightweight fight in six years, when he beat Eddie Alvarez to win the lightweight title at UFC 205 in November 2016.

However, McGregor is the biggest star in the history of mixed martial arts and his fights draw the most money. That fact is not lost on Oliveira.

"I have a daughter to raise," Oliveira said. "Everyone wants to fight Conor, it's not just me who wants to. Everyone knows that fighting Conor is very profitable. I'm talking about money. And Conor knows that, that everyone wants to fight him."

The only top-five contender in the UFC's official rankings that Oliveira has not beaten is Islam Makhachev, who has won 10 straight fights. But Oliveira said he thinks Makhachev needs to win "at least one more fight before trying for the belt."

"I've never ran from a fight and the lightweight champion is called Charles Oliveira," Oliveira said. "Is Islam a very tough guy? Yep. Did he fight big names? No. He's on a big streak, but who did he fight?"

Oliveira, though, said if Makhachev, a dominant wrestler, wins one more fight, he'd be willing to face him at the end of the year in Oliveira's home country of Brazil, Makhachev's home country of Russia or anywhere else.

"I don't care about his fighting style," said Oliveira, who is one of the best grapplers in UFC history and the best submission artist. "What he does best, I do 10 times more. If he thinks that putting down everyone [on the ground] he [fought] is the same thing as [fighting] Charles Oliveira, he is completely wrong."

Oliveira, 32, won the lightweight title vacated by Khabib Nurmagomedov by beating Michael Chandler via second-round TKO at UFC 262 in May 2021. "Do Bronx" defended the belt with a third-round submission win over Poirier at UFC 269 last December.