PITTSBURGH -- Charles Oliveira is an interesting dude, and part of that is because he’s a very young dude.
At 20 years old, he came into a truckload of money by that age bracket’s standards -- winning "Submission of the night" against Darren Elkins in September, pocketing $40,000 on the spot -- and he went on a bit of a spree.
What’d he buy, you ask? The standard things of youth: a fish aquarium, some calopsita birds, a couple of parrots (with particularly vertical crests), a dog, and an assortment of other small animals for around the house.
“This is true,” he said through his interpreter Jorge Patino. “It’s a zoo at home, and I love animals. When I got some money, when the UFC paid me, I had dreams. My mom and dad gave me everything they could in Brazil (growing up). But some things I could buy, and I bought stuff for fishing; a remote control car. Little kids stuff, but it made me feel good because I am 50 percent kid and 50 percent man.”
Oliveira is now 21 years old and owns a 14-1 record after his setback loss to Jim Miller at UFC 124. As a Brazilian jiu-jitsu wunderkind, he was an unlikely candidate to fall for only the eighth kneebar in UFC history that night -- but fights have a funny way of playing out. Had he beaten Miller, he’d likely be considered a top 10 lightweight with designs on being the UFC’s youngest champion. As is, he’s fighting on tonight's prelims against Nik Lentz at UFC Live on Versus 4 with designs on being the UFC’s youngest champion.
That little fork in the road didn’t do much to damper those aspirations.
“I never give up,” he told ESPN.com a few hours before yesterday's weigh-ins. “It’s better that the loss happened now, than in a title belt fight. Because now, I get the focus again and can keep it going my way, and I’ll never lose my focus anymore.
“After I lost I felt bad because I lost my game plan. But two weeks after that I started training again, getting focused and I just began looked forward to my next victory and my next fight. But the problem with Jim Miller is I forgot my strategy. I wanted to finish the fight fast and he’s strong, and he put me down -- I made a mistake, and that’s the problem.”
Against Lentz he might be going against the promotion’s most underrated fighter. In six fights, he is officially undefeated with one draw (though the Tyson Griffin decision remains mighty iffy). In other words, he’s not exactly a can that the UFC has lined up for Oliveira to regain his footing -- Lentz is a very real threat to send him into an early career tailspin.
Which is why he’s looking to trade making mistakes for exploiting them.
“I have to recognize that each fight is different,” he said. “I watched a lot of videos with Lentz, and I saw little mistakes. And I’ll work to take advantage of those mistakes.”
It’d be another solid notch on Oliveira’s belt to score big against Lentz. If he wins another bonus? There’s talk of fishing tackle to catch those elusive wild tucanare and baiacu down in Brazil. But you know what? As a young eccentric sportsman, he would never bring harm to those little fishies.
“I catch a lot,” he says. “But I don’t kill them, I catch and release. I love animals.”