Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Beneil Dariush considers himself one of the most even-tempered fighters on the entire UFC roster. But lately, his frustration has started to boil over whenever he addresses ex-lightweight champion Charles Oliveira.
His issues with Oliveira date back nearly two years, when he was offered and accepted a fight against the Brazilian only to have the matchup fall apart days later. At the time, he was told Oliveira had family issues that would prevent him from competing. But then a few weeks later, “Do Bronx” instead accepted a fight against Tony Ferguson.
Fast forward to present day, and Dariush is riding a seven-fight winning streak, which has propelled him near the top of the lightweight rankings. Yet he rarely ever hears Oliveira mention his name when asked about potential opposition. To exacerbate matters, Oliveira was recently stripped of the UFC lightweight title after missing weight and is now considered the No. 1 contender of the division.
“He’s talking about wanting to fight Conor, and he talks about how these guys never gave him a shot when he was outside the top five, blah, blah, blah,” Dariush said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “We were supposed to fight October of 2020. I have a fight contract, I can post a picture of it. I was supposed to fight Charles, and he pulled out of the fight, and then a couple months later, instead of fighting me, he fought Tony Ferguson. He said something about family issues and I’m not going to say, ‘Oh, he didn’t fight me, I can’t believe it.’ Family comes first, I understand that. But the same thing people did to him, he’s doing to me.
“He was supposed to fight me, bailed, ran and fought Tony Ferguson. Now, instead of fighting actual contenders, he wants to go fight Conor? He wants to go fight Nate Diaz? This is hypocritical. This is the only thing that’s bothering me.”
McGregor is currently recovering from a broken leg suffered in his previous outing against Dustin Poirier in early 2021. There’s been no definitive timeline set for his return to action.
McGregor is just 1-3 in his past four appearances. On its face, his resume makes him an unlikely candidate to return from a long layoff to face the best lightweight in the sport. That’s just another reason why Dariush is so annoyed with Oliveira chasing the fight.
“I understand the media has their thing, the UFC has their part, but for him to be chasing a unicorn, it’s super frustrating,” he said. “There’s two clear contenders in front of you, and you’re trying to chase a unicorn. No one knows when Conor is going to fight again. The guy might not even fight this year. Make it make sense. It just doesn’t make sense.”
When Oliveira first mentioned McGregor following his win at UFC 274, fellow lightweight Islam Makhachev scoffed at the suggestion and countered he was the rightful challenger for the vacant title. Oliveira, however, quickly dismissed Makhachev’s callout and told him to move forward with a fight against Dariush to determine who would vie for the title; the two were previously scheduled to fight in February before an injury to Dariush forced him to withdraw.
If the UFC asks, Dariush has no problem accepting the Makhachev rematch. But he also wonders if Oliveira is attempting to make the matchup happen so he can ultimately avoid one of them.
“Logically, it makes sense,” Dariush said. “I really don’t what else there is. Not even saying our names. I never hear him say my name as far as the fights go. I’m frustrated at myself because if I hadn’t been injured, all of this wouldn’t be happening, so I’m a little frustrated with myself. That adds to it as well. But it’s possible that he wants one of us to knock the other person out so he only has to deal with one person.
“I think stylistically, yes [we are the toughest matchups for Oliveira]. Because if you look at the Kevin Lee fight, Kevin Lee was not doing that well with Charles but he did his best work against him on the ground, when he stayed on top. I think he may have won one round by just being on top, by holding Charles down for a round. No disrespect to Kevin, but Kevin doesn’t have the jiu-jitsu, the submission grappling down as much as myself or Islam. I think stylistically, we’re a nightmare matchup for Charles. I think I’m a nightmare matchup for both of them.”
At this stage, Dariush can’t say for certain what will happen next, though ideally he would love to settle his unfinished business with Oliveira in August or September. If he still has to win one more fight to earn a title shot, then so be it. But more than anything, he just wants Oliveira to acknowledge the real contenders in the division who are waiting to face him.
“Listen, if I have to fight Islam, cool,” Dariush said. “I told the UFC I’d be ready in August or September. I’ve been told that Islam wants to wait right now for the Abu Dhabi card [in October]. OK, whatever, if I have to wait until then, I’ll fight him then. But if Charles is just waiting to fight Conor, that makes no sense.
“We’re both here. We’re both ready to fight for the title. It’s annoying. Right now, I’m just waiting to see what’s going to happen. I’m rarely frustrated because I understand that it’s all a popularity contest and there’s a lot of politics in the game. I get it. But it’s the first time I’ve been so frustrated with another fighter. You’re literally doing the things you said other people did to you, so I don’t get it.”