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Nisar Khan


Nisar is the founder, lead writer and CEO of SportingMatrix. He covers all sports from football to UFC and the Olympics. Nisar first started writing on his personal blog back in 2012 and has continued to cover sports ever since. Nisar also hosts CATCHWEIGHT, a weekly podcast on the world of combat sports. You can find all of his posts below.




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Do Bronx: Charles Oliveira's Journey From Childhood Adversity to World Champion

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Carmen Mandato / Getty Images
The date is 1st August, 2010. Tender and slender is the Brazilian with curly black hair, sporting white Hayabusa shorts and brimming enthusiasm as he walks out to a half-empty San Diego Sports Arena. The eventual attendance of 8,132 are still an hour or so away from filing in to witness the exciting trail-blazer of the young generation, Jon Jones, star in the main event.

Some 15 seconds into the bout and Oliveira is already soaring into the air as Darren Elkins slams him into the canvas. In the blink of an eye comes a scramble into guard. He kicks a leg over and hyperextends the arm of his American foe, forcing an early tap. A victory sprint around the perimeter of the cage and jubilant celebration with the corner follows, sporting an expression that would not look out of place on a child on Christmas morning.

Image: Getty Images

Little did we know this would be the start of a magical UFC journey, empowered by a life of adversity, all coming to a head on an exhilarating night, headlined by the man himself, Do Bronx. After surviving from the brink in the first stanza, Oliveira blew away Michael Chandler with an avalanche of punches more than a decade in the making to inherit the coveted lightweight throne.

A theme of beating the odds stems from his early childhood. Raised in the favelas, Charles Oliveira was struck by rheumatoid arthritis on his ankles, restricting his childhood to hospital trips, injections, and doubts from doctors about his ability to walk in the future - let alone play his true love of football. A fateful decision to try jiu-jitsu would at the age of 11 would then change the entire course of his life.

With adulthood came the last injections, and two years later Oliveira ditched the needles for the four-ounce gloves in his UFC debut. What followed was a rollercoaster ride of an Octagonal education across two weight divisions.

Oliveira experienced it all by learning at the very top of the sport with nowhere to hide, which brought the lowest of lows, a dislocated shoulder against Max Holloway and back-to-back submission losses against Anthony Pettis and Ricardo Lamas come to note. Earlier in the run he left it all on the line against Frankie Edgar but even that wasn't enough. Anytime he would string a couple of wins together, up stepped the level of competition and down went Do Bronx.

Image: Zuffa LLC

All that appeared to change course after the Brazilian wilted against Paul Felder in December 2017. Yet again, he had crashed head first into a bulletproof glass ceiling. Above him lounged the critics, flicking through notepads of the same old prognoses that had plagued his career so far. Not durable, not mentally strong, not elite - the list went on.

Not in the wildest of imaginations could we have envisioned what transpired next. Oliveira, quite literally went on a tear. He knocked down the unranked to the ranked, picking up more confidence and swagger with each passing hand raise. Then came the breakout, extraordinary year that was 2020. The only thing perhaps more surreal than him starring in the first main event of an empty stadium struck by the pandemic was that he secured a spectacular win over an elite fighter and finally put the world on notice. 

A pay-per-view co-main event against one of the greatest lightweights of all time later that year was on tap - and he made it look easy. Controlling "El Cucuy" Tony Ferguson at will throughout three rounds, there was only one thing on the agenda afterwards: a crack at the UFC world championship. Oliveira finally came face-to-face with the greatest test of his life.

Image: MMA Junkie / USA TODAY Sports

And some test it was. Michael Chandler had him seconds away from being stopped. That was after he survived from the most deadly position, exploding out of a body triangle from his back and having him troubled at the hands of a barrage of punches.

Oliveira had to hang on as the first round expired, but refused to be tentative in the second round. In came Chandler again looking for the overhand, but he was met with a perfect left hook that spelled the beginning of the end. Oliveira smelt blood and didn't let Chandler off the hook, swarming him and dropping him with another left hand and finishing him with strikes. And with that, he had reached the mountaintop.

Scaling the ultimate heights of the sport was something he was destined for. Breaking into the UFC at such a young age, you would expect Do Bronx to have been raw and impetuous, but he quickly showed he had a cerebral side that went hand-in-hand with exceptional technical ability.

That first shone through his world-class grappling game. Early submissions tumbled for Oliveira who bewildered the developing UFC opposition, making it look ridiculously easy at times. But to thrive in this sport, you must be not only a complete fighter, but also a complete athlete with heaps of mental fortitude, and that is where Oliveira fell short.

Image: Zuffa LLC / Getty Images

The weight cut drama had also took its toll. Loitering between featherweight and lightweight, Oliveira wanted to employ the most of his physical tools at 145 pounds, but his body refused. Countless missed weight cuts which translated into subpar performances the night afterwards in the cage were stubborn signs from his physiology to move up to lightweight.

Soon enough, he got more confident behind his hands. Lifting the knee up with a front kick or jumping variation has been a staple of his game from his very first fight, but he added more. All of a sudden, fighters didn't feel comfortable on the feet and they sure as hell weren't willing to tangle with him on the mat.

And it's fitting that when it came to the biggest and greatest night of his career, Oliveira passed all tests in beautiful harmony. He overcame the adversity, when a younger Oliveira would have crumbled. He kept composure when Chandler survived from a position where it seemed certain he was about to be choked. And then he unleashed a stupendous counter left hook that melted his opponent and ultimately validated his life's work.


What a journey, what a life, and he's only 31 years of age. Who knows what the next chapter will hold, but the sequel promises to be a blockbuster one. Oliveira didn't have a perfect night but a storybook ending is never plain-sailing. The head movement deficiencies which have been potent throughout his career were still there for all to see, while Chandler may also have found some answers for the submission skills of the Brazilian. 

What we're looking at here isn't necessarily an untouchable champion, complete in all areas and searching high and wide for challengers, but rather a vulnerable, once-timid individual coming into his own and evolving in a manner few have ever done before. Charles Oliveira used to take losses as he learned, but now he's taking wins. And that, in layman's terms, is why he is champion of the world. Finally, he has found comfort in the uncomfortable. The only thing different about his frequent trips back home to the favela to help the needy will be that he will do so in possession of a shiny gold belt. Champion of the world and champion of the people.

Image: SportsHub

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SportingMatrix • We Live For Sport: Do Bronx: Charles Oliveira's Journey From Childhood Adversity to World Champion
Do Bronx: Charles Oliveira's Journey From Childhood Adversity to World Champion
Charles Oliveira's rollercoaster ride of an Octagonal education reaped all its rewards on a fateful night in Houston at UFC 262.
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SportingMatrix • We Live For Sport
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