Things have never come easily for rising star Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira, and to hear the 21-year old Brazilian talk you can gather he wouldn’t have had it any other way. From growing up in a particularly poor section of Sao Paolo to making his professional MMA debut in a three-fight welterweight tournament at 18 while weighing “158 pounds wearing jeans, sneakers, and a coat,” Oliveira has stared down a number of hardships in his life and come out on top more often than not. However, regardless of the success he’s experienced thus far in his young career, he has maintained his humility in large part due to the very struggles he’s endured.
The 17-0 Oliveira, whose next challenge comes in the form of Jim Miller (5 Oz. #12 lightweight), recently spoke with Tatame about his upcoming bout at UFC 124, his burning to desire to keep improving, how he spent a recent $40,000 event-bonus, and his dream of one day fighting UFC icon B.J. Penn if ever given the opportunity to do so.
His modesty, derived from his humble upbringing in Brazil, is not confined simply to the gym but extends to his daily life as well. When Oliveira won $40,000 for the first of his dual event-bonuses, rather than buying any variety of luxury items or taking the vacation of his dreams, he instead opted to help his family’s living situation while only purchasing a few simple toys for himself he never had while growing up.
“First of all, I think my family comes first – it’s the foundation of everything, I have a girlfriend…I never went to a nightclub in my life…I’ve never smoked, did drugs or drank,” he began. Do you know what was the first thing I bought (with the $40k)? A little remote control car in the United States. I’ve never had one…Yesterday I was back home and I was flying a kite with the boys there…”
Oliveira continued on the subject, saying, “Despite of what I’ve earned, with all the money I have, I got that money and fixed things at home…gave the best things to my mom. Today, thank God, I can give my mom and Dad what they have given me. Now I’m focused, I’ve never had that kid spirit. We go to UFC and the guys ask to take a photo with me and I go there and take a picture with them… There’re guys who say they can’t. I think it’s bullsh*t. You have to be humble. Sometimes I make a mistake, and then my mom comes to me and says. ‘Charles, be careful. You forgot this’…”
As far as his future in a weight-class in a pool as deep and shark-infested as the South Pacific, Oliveira acknowledged his proximity to an eventual crack at the championship but has his sights set on tackling who he sees as lightweight’s apex predator rather than going for gold.
“Frank Edgar deserves everything he’s got, but I think that the big name of the division is (Penn). B.J. is the guy,” said Oliveira of the former double-divisional champion. “This fight (against Matt Hughes) he proved it to the world. I think he owns the division.”
When asked if he would prefer to step into the ring against Penn as opposed to the UFC 155-pound champion, the undefeated youngster replied, “That’s my dream. When I saw (Edgar), I thought….if it was for the belt, I’d do it, but I’d be honored to fight B.J. independently of the outcome.”
Dream-fights aside, Oliveira’s focus is currently on his match-up with Miller in Montreal. Miller, who is 18-2 with losses to Edgar and Gray Maynard, also has yet to be finished in any of his twenty fights. While known primarily as a grappler, Oliveira believes Miller’s striking is actually underrated and won’t be surprised if the New Jersey native comes out swinging on Saturday night.
“I think he’s a complete guy who can play standing up or on the floor. From my part, I want him to come forward in the first round because I know he’ll come hungry for me, and in my fights no one has done it to me. I think he’ll try to risk it all – he’ll try to knock me out or submit me. I think he’ll try to take me down, but I’m not afraid of going to the (ground),” said the two-time “Submission of the Night” winner while referencing his own BJJ ability.
However, that’s not to say “Do Bronx” isn’t still actively seeking to improve all facets of his skill-set. In fact, while some may view his quick submission of Darren Elkins last August as a flawless debut in the Octagon, Oliveira himself sees holes in his game he needs to fix.
“Yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine, and we were saying that when the guy wins he thinks he’s doing fine in the game. Not me. In my first time, I fought for 41 seconds (against Elkins), and I’ve watched those forty-one seconds like a hundred times,” he explained. “I’ve watched this fight all over again, and I enjoy learning – to see what I’ve done wrong and what I’ve done right, to know what I should do. When a guy teaches me something, I want to learn it, really learn it and take the best lesson from it I can…”
This weekend’s event will mark the third fight for Oliveira in the last four months. In addition to his win over Elkins, he most recently submitted Ultimate Fighter Season 8 champ Efrain Escudero in September at UFC Fight Night 22. He has only gone to decision a single time in seventeen in-ring appearances while racking up almost an even number of submissions/TKOs.