Some fighters don’t believe in the concept of “short notice.” Donald Cerrone is the most notable. Another “Cowboy,” Alex Oliveira, is cut from the same cloth, so it was no surprise when the Brazilian accepted a welterweight bout with Cerrone a little over two weeks out from the UFC Fight Night main event in Pittsburgh this Sunday.
“There was no hesitation,” Oliveira said of replacing Tim Means against the former lightweight contender. “Whenever the UFC needs me I am ready. I don't ever stop training. I think we have to always be ready for war, and the war can happen at any time.”
Sounds good on paper, but Oliveira takes it to another level in reality. When he steps into the Octagon at Consol Energy Center, it will be his sixth fight in the last 12 months, and it falls directly on his 28th birthday. That’s a schedule Cerrone would be jealous of, and it’s fitting that the two not only share a similar work ethic, but a nickname. Oliveira believes there should be no doubt as to who deserves it though.
“I am the real cowboy,” the Tres Rio native said. “I used to ride on real bulls, I used to compete in real rodeos.”
It was a tough life for him, and while fighting in the Octagon isn’t any less taxing on him or his peers, at least now, a UFC career has him starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, with 2015 being a year he won’t likely ever forget.
“It was a magic year,” Oliveira said. “I got into the world’s biggest MMA event and I was able to buy a house for my mother. I hope 2016 will be even better.”
Beginning the year with a win on the local circuit over Joilton Santos, Oliveira got the call for a short notice bout against unbeaten lightweight prospect Gilbert Burns a month after that fight and nearly pulled off the upset before getting submitted with 46 seconds left.
Two months later, he came to the rescue as a replacement once more, submitting KJ Noons in a welterweight matchup. Less than a month after his first Octagon win, Oliveira stayed at 170 pounds and defeated Joe Merritt, but it was his return to lightweight last November that really turned heads, as he knocked out Piotr Hallmann, earning Performance of the Night honors in the process. That bonus check went straight to getting a house for his mom, and that story, along with his willingness to fight and his hard road to glory, has made him a fan favorite at home.
“I think they (the fans) follow me because I am a good person and that I had a tough life,” he said. “I think I relate to people that have to fight to survive. I don't refuse fights; I go in there and battle. And I love to put on a show.”
The consensus on this weekend’s main event is that it most certainly will be a show, but Oliveira is not showing up just to put on a good fight. He’s heading to Steel City to win.
“He has some dangerous kicks,” Oliveira said of his foe. “Besides that, I have faced opponents like him before.”
With 13 wins in 17 bouts, odds are he won those bouts, and as someone who has competed at welterweight before, he believes he also has an edge over the newcomer to the division.
“Welterweight and lightweight are two very different divisions,” he said. “I believe that he will feel my power.”
But will Oliveira stay at 170 with a win on Sunday?
“I don't know. This is something I have to think about, but my preference is still the lightweight division.”
What does know for sure is that 2016 is going to be another memorable one for this “Cowboy.”
“I see lot of wins and a lot of smiles.”