Charles Oliveria showcased another impressive performance this past weekend, knocking out Nik Lentz in the second round. Immediately following this performance, the UFC honored “Suga” Rashad Evans and announced he would be entering the UFC Hall of Fame this July. It was a perfectly timed series of events that made me consider the legacy of Charles Olivera’s. Oliveira is a veteran of the sport. His name is etched throughout the record book. And yet, when discussing the greatest fighters to ever step into the octagon, his name rarely, if ever, comes up. The moment forced me to ask a complicated question. Is Charles Oliveira a future hall of famer?
Undoubtedly, Oliveria has some of the best jiu jitsu we have seen inside the octagon. A black belt under Jorge Patino, Oliveria holds a UFC record for 13 submission victories. Oliveria has used six different submissions to get this record, including being one of two fighters to win a fight by calf slicer (With Brett Johns being the other calf slicer in 2017). Saturday night also marked Oliveira’s 14th finish in the UFC, tying him with Vitor Belfort and Anderson Silva for the second most finishes in UFC history (Donald Cerrone holds the current record at 16). Additionally, he has won 14 fight-night bonuses, tying him with Anderson Silva for fourth most in UFC history (Donald Cerrone also holds this record with 17 bonuses).
These are rather impressive and meaningful feats that make it seem as if the answer to this question is obvious. How could the man who has submitted more opponents than anyone else in history be left out of the hall of fame? But despite these amazing statistics, Oliveira has been plagued by one major flaw throughout his career: inconsistency. Time and time again the UFC has given Oliveira a chance to prove himself against top level opponents, every single time he has lost. Oliveira has fought Anthony Pettis, Max Holloway, Frankie Edgar, Cub Swanson, and Donald Cerrone and has managed to lose to every single one of them. His career highlight was a victory over Jeremy Stephens, and while Stephens is a formidable opponent, one would expect a future hall of famer to have better wins and a title to their name.
Not only do these losses prevent Oliveira from having a hall of fame résumé, it has also prevented Oliveira from having any real impact on the sport, and the impact of a fighter is arguably more important than the record books when considering hall of fame inductees, only the most hardcore of hardcore MMA fans know who Oliveria even is. Consider Matt Serra, a former UFC welterweight who was inducted in 2018. He was only 11-7, 7-7 in the UFC, and only finished 3 fights in the UFC. Yet, no real MMA fan would ever argue that he doesn’t deserve to be in the hall of fame. Why? Because his impact on the sport is immeasurable. He pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history when he knocked out Georges St. Pierre in the first round. Not to mention that he’s the co-founder of the elite Serra-Longo Fight Team and manages to coach former middleweight champion Chris Weidman, Aljamain Sterling, and Al Iaquinta. He has been a part and parcel of some of the most significant moments in MMA history and will continue to be a part of them until he retires from coaching. Oliveira hasn’t had this impact. He hasn’t had a crazy upset. He hasn’t won a belt. He hasn’t even earned a title shot. He has only fought in the main event once, fighting Max Holloway on a fight night in Canada. He has spent his career fighting three-round fights.
Charles Oliveira is yet to have a rivalry. As stupid as this may initially sound, think about any current hall of famer or future hall of famer. Almost all of them have a rival. Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz. Ronda Rousey and Meisha Tate. Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier. Whilst it’s not the rivalry in and of itself that has made these fighters hall of famers, these rivalries created unforgettable fights that have immensely contributed to these fighters’ legacies. Oliveira’s inability to succeed against high level opponents has made it impossible for him to be in the high-profile media spotlight that creates and develops these intense rivalries. His inconsistency has simply kept his fights from being historically significant.
So, is Charles Oliveira a future hall of famer? – There’s a 99% percent chance the answer is ‘No’, but this is a question that perhaps requires deeper introversion, are records enough to put someone in the hall of fame, or does a fighter need to have fights of historical significance to be inducted? For me personally, Oliveira is on the cusp of the hall of fame, but his fights have been too historically insignificant to get a bid. Yet, with 5 straight wins and 5 straight finishes, his career is still far from over, and it is likely Oliveira gets another crack at the top before the end of his career. Oliveira needs to make the most of this opportunity. He needs to make one last push for the belt and beat a few top lightweights. If Oliveira can pull this off and put a Gaethje, Poirier, or even Ferguson on his resume, it may be enough for him to be inducted into the hall of fame. A huge win here and there a title could possibly just nudge him into the contention of hall of faming. This may seem a bit unlikely, but who said becoming a legend was so easy?