What Charles Oliveira Weigh-In Means for UFC 274 and the Future

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterMay 6, 2022

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MAY 06: Charles Oliveira of Brazil fails to make weight on his first attempt during the UFC 274 official weigh-in at the Hyatt Regency hotel on May 06, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Chris Unger/Getty Images

Disaster has struck UFC 274. And the first preliminary fight is still more than a day away.

Lightweight champion—excuse me, former lightweight champion—Charles Oliveira missed weight on both attempts Friday, becoming the first UFC fighter to lose a title to the weigh-in scale.

In terms of stakes or the excitement around UFC 274 or Oliveira's main event with Justin Gaethje, this isn't just air going out of a balloon. This is a catastrophe.

Here's how it all went down:

  • During weigh-ins, Oliveira came in at 155.5 pounds, or half a pound above the limit for title fights. (Non-title bouts have a one-pound grace margin, but title fights require competitors to hit it on the nose or come in below the limit.)
  • Oliveira had one hour to lose the extra weight. After taking the full hour, an emaciated Oliveira re-emerged. He shed his shorts behind a curtain and, with coaches and commissioners lined up to check for funny business, again weighed in at 155.5 pounds.
  • Oliveira remains the champion, but as of Saturday night, the UFC lightweight title will be considered vacant.
  • Oliveira and the MMA community stared blankly in disbelief.
  • He will forfeit an unspecified percentage of his fight purse to Gaethje.
  • Oliveira will not be able to win the title back Saturday. If he defeats Gaethje, the title will remain vacant.
  • Gaethje, who hit his mark at exactly 155 pounds, will become champion if he defeats Oliveira.

Oliveira displayed confidence before and during the proceedings (as evidenced by this pre-weigh-in tweet) but was visibly and understandably in shock after the number was read a second time.

Charles 'DoBronxs' Oliveira @CharlesDoBronxs

weight ✔️ peso✔️ #UFC274

This was a first in UFC history, though there was a precedent—well, sort of. In 2018, women's flyweight champion Nicco Montano was hospitalized while cutting weight for her UFC 228 defense against Valentina Shevchenko and was subsequently stripped of her title. But it's not the same because she never actually weighed in.

This was not the first time Oliveira had difficulty with the scale. However, those failures came one weight class below at featherweight. He missed in 2012 before a loss to Cub Swanson, in 2014 before beating Jeremy Stephens, in 2015 before a victory against Myles Jury and in 2016 before a defeat at the hands of Ricardo Lamas, after which Oliveira returned to 155 pounds and didn't miss weight for his 12 bouts leading up to UFC 274.

Justin Gaethje makes weight.
Justin Gaethje makes weight.Chris Unger/Getty Images

What does this mean for UFC 274? Well, UFC executives are certainly wiping their eyes with hundred dollar bills as their pay-per-view buys evaporate before their tear-stained fields of vision. This is especially true because of some stiff counterprogramming from its sister sport, as boxing's pound-for-pound king Saul "Canelo" Alvarez will vie for a light heavyweight title on the same evening.

The fight itself could still be a great one. Despite the weigh-in mishap, DraftKings listed Oliveira as a -140 favorite. He's incredibly skilled and well-rounded. Gaethje is a stone-cold knockout artist with the power, patience and takedown defense to steal an opponent's will, or consciousness, over time. But Oliveira is not just going to roll over—in fact, this might provide added motivation.

This isn't likely to win him a lot of friends in the front office or elsewhere. On one hand, you feel bad for Oliveira, and it's just half a pound. But on the other hand, why would a champion leave this to chance, knowing full well that even a few ounces can mean calamity? Mitigating circumstances notwithstanding, missing weight is one of the most unprofessional things a fighter can do.

Which brings us to the division as a whole. What happens now? It's a good thing for fans that this is the best weight class in the UFC. Even if Oliveira wins and the title stays vacant, there will be plenty of options.

Gaethje, left, and Poirier in their first fight.
Gaethje, left, and Poirier in their first fight.Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

First, the UFC issued a statement about the situation (h/t Aaron Bronsteter of TSN) that essentially guaranteed Oliveira will stay in the mix. The statement read in part: "If Oliveira wins, he will be the number one contender for the vacant Lightweight Championship and will fight the next challenger for the undisputed title belt at a time and place to be determined."

But there are still a lot of options at the top of the division. There could be rematch between co-No. 1-ranked Gaethje and Dustin Poirier (Poirier won the first fight). Or how about a bout between No. 3 Islam Makhachev and the winner of Saturday's bout between Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson? And what about Conor McGregor?

So, with or without Oliveira, the division and the UFC march on. Oliveira himself? Not so much. No matter what, he will have to answer questions about this for the rest of his life. It could even be career-defining. And this is the fighter with the most submission wins (15) in UFC history.

For someone as great and as tested as Oliveira, this is more than a shame. It's a disaster.