The fight gained a lot of traction in the weeks following its announcement, with various parallel issues being brought up by either camp.
One of the most discussed things concerning the upcoming bout is its location in Abu Dhabi.
Former lightweight champion and fellow Brazilian Rafael dos Anjos brought up the same on a podcast called Nem Me Viu, hosted by Fabricio Werdum:
“I think it’s a tough fight. I think one thing that favors Islam is the fact that the fight is in Abu Dhabi. That wasn’t nice with Charles. I think as a champion, he deserved a fight on neutral territory in the US, or in Brazil, right?”
Dos Anjos also himself clarified that Oliveira did not technically hold the belt despite being the former champ and thus had no leverage to negotiate with:
“But guys got that lever ‘Charles is not the champion, the belt is vacant’. So he [Oliveira] took the fight there, ’cause if he didn’t, someone else would.”
Many Brazilian fans have shared dos Anjos’ sentiment and feel that Abu Dhabi favors Islam Makhachev.
Makhachev’s teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov has garnered a massive following amongst Muslim fans in the Gulf and is never lacking in support in events held there.
The contentious issue was previously addressed by Charles Oliveira himself as well. ‘do Bronx’ rubbished claims of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev’s apparent willingness to fight in Brazil.
In an appearance on a live stream on popular Brazilian YouTube channel PVT, he said:
“And since we know that UFC will come to Brazil in January. I tried to set it here. That really was their play, as you said, saying that the fight could happen in Brazil, that they would come. That’s a lie. They wouldn’t come.” [translation via MMA with Subtitles on YouTube]
Oliveira stated that had the Makhachev camp been willing, the championship fight would very well have taken place in Brazil. However, he also maintained that the octagon is the same across the world, and he will back himself to get a win anywhere the fight is held.
The two best lightweights with the longest running streaks in the division will face off at UFC 280, but only one will leave as champion.
Watch Rafael dos Anjos’ comments below: