Is Oliveira a quitter as Gaethje claims? – A look at his UFC defeats

Charles Oliveira lost to Max Holloway after ‘everything went numb’, has tapped out THREE times and been broken by body shots… but is he really a ‘quitter’ as Justin Gaethje claims ahead of UFC 274?

  • Justin Gaethje has previously called champion Charles Oliveira ‘a quitter’
  • American is fighting his Brazilian rival for the lightweight belt at UFC 274 
  • Oliveira’s defeats in the octagon suggest that Gaethje might have a point  
  • But he has grown significantly and showed courage against Michael Chandler 

It seems strange to throw the term ‘quitter’ around, especially about the UFC lightweight champion of the world. 

But Justin Gaethje has maintained that when times are tough, Charles Oliveira looks for a way out and the American has promised to pour on the punishment at UFC 274. 

Gaethje is capable of heaping on misery and plenty of his opponents die a slow death, cut to ribbons by his leg kicks before the heavy artillery starts. 

But is he right about Oliveira? How can a fighter with 10 successive wins be called a ‘quitter’? 

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at Oliveira’s past defeats in the UFC to see if Gaethje has a point. 


Charles Oliveira (left) has been accused of quitting in the past by Justin Gaethje (right)

The Brazilian has tapped out and lost to strikes before his current winning streak

Gaethje acknowledges that his assessment of Oliveira was of a younger man and the champion is a far more confident competitor now. 

But he believes the simple fact that Oliveira has turned away from the battle when the going gets tough means he’ll do so again in extreme adversity. 

He told ESPN: ‘I wasn’t being overly critical, I wasn’t saying he was a bad champion, I was saying that in the times that he’s lost, he didn’t even get knocked out, he quit sometimes.

‘The choice to quit is something one makes, and once you make it, you can make it again, because you know that it’s there. 

‘I don’t believe I’ve ever made that choice. Some people haven’t and I believe some people have… I believe that he has, and that’s all I was saying. 

Jim Miller caught Charles Oliveira in a kneebar for what would be the first defeat of his career

‘I believe, deep down, he knows his way out, and that’s to quit whenever he gets hit too many times too hard. All those assessments were of a younger man,’ he continued. ‘He’s [32] years old, he’s a man now, with confidence. 

‘A man with confidence is a dangerous man and he’s not the same man that I was referencing. But, again, deep down, once it happened once it will happen again, and I’m the perfect guy to show it to him. And I will show it to him May 7.’

Oliveira’s first defeat in the UFC came against Jim Miller and came in a flash. 

The pair were grappling and Miller latched onto the Brazilian’s leg, wrenching it to force a very swift tap. 

In this instance, it would be harsh to say Oliveira quit, as a phenomenal jiu-jitsu practitioner himself, he knows when serious damage is about to be done to a knee so this was a case of self preservation. He wasn’t looking for a way out but had no choice. 

More legitimate questions can be asked about Oliveira’s defeat by Donald Cerrone back in 2011. ‘Cowboy’ landed a nasty body shot and missed marginally with a knee. Oliveira hit the mat and covered up as the American swung at him. 

Donald Cerrone defeated Oliveira with a heavy body shot followed by hook back in 2011

A minor throat tear caused Oliveira to lose against Max Holloway back in 2015

‘He kicked my a**’, wrote the current champion when asked about the defeat last year on Twitter. 

A left to the body followed by a right hook from Cub Swanson proved decisive in his next defeat. 

Eyebrows were raised at the amount of time it took the Brazilian to go down and it almost seemed in slow motion. Medical staff then tended to him for a lengthy period as the post-fight interview was taking place.

It was certainly an unusual finish but it is impossible to say how hurt Oliveira was by the combination. 

There was another unfortunate and unusual ending to his next defeat by Max Holloway. ‘Blessed’ was on the attack but did not land anything significant. 

He told Oliveira to get back to his feet and he obliged for a second, then rocked back to the mat in apparent pain. 

The Brazilian has come a long way and started his journey in the UFC at a young age

Oliveira was then taken to hospital where he was found to have a small esophageal tear.  

‘I injured my neck in training, but did physical therapy and thought everything was fine’, he revealed afterwards.  

‘But when I fell against the cage everything went numb, I couldn’t feel my body.’

A year later in 2016, Oliveira tapped out twice to guillotine chokes, once against Anthony Pettis and then Ricardo Lamas. 

Pettis managed to reverse position when it looked as though the Brazilian was in control. He then locked up the submission and forced a very quick tap. 

Again, you would think as an accomplished black belt, Oliveira would know when someone has him. But there was a lack of resistance there. 

He appeared to fight harder against Lamas but eventually accepted defeat.

Anthony Pettis submitted the jiu-jitsu expert with a guillotine back in 2016

It was a strange ending to his fight with Cub Swanson as Oliveira went down slowly

Paul Felder broke Oliveira’s spirit in ‘Do Bronx’s’ last defeat back in 2017. He landed some vicious ground and pound elbows. 

It was clear that Oliveira wanted nothing more to do with it as he turtled up and waited for the referee to intervene. 

Of course, only the man himself knows how much more he could have pushed or if he allowed himself to give up in those losses. 

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But the nature of some of them do lend some credibility to Gaethje’s claims. 

However, Oliveira is a man transformed now. More comfortable at lightweight and crucially, having shown he can overcome adversity. 

Oliveira had no answer for Felder’s heavy ground and pound in what was his last defeat

In the interim fight for the belt last year against Michael Chandler, Oliveira was rocked badly in the first round. Rather than throwing in the towel, he dug in and turned the tide in the second. 

This is a point Dustin Poirier made, disagreeing with Gaethje. ‘Diamond’ said: ‘I’ve seen Charles in a lot of fights. He’s been in a lot of fights at a high level so I’ve seen him kind of fold in fights before.

‘But I’ve also seen him rise to the occasion and show up in adversity. 

‘If he was a quitter, he had a chance to quit when Chandler hurt him but he came back and put him away.’ 

And Oliveira uses the same argument to dismiss Gaethje, adding: ‘Michael Chandler landed a good one and hit me hard for basically three minutes, he did everything he could and I didn’t quit. Why? I’m in a great place mentally, physically and spiritually.’

Oliveira showed grit to overcome adversity and put Michael Chandler away last year

If there is anyone to test the heart of the champion, it is Gaethje.

He has the capacity to make opponents go through hell and the 155-pound king’s resilience could be pushed to the limit on Saturday in Arizona. 

‘Those who think I’m a quitter, tell them to earn it, win their fights and come get it,’ he said. ‘We’ll see who quits and loses. But come ready, both on the feet and on the ground. That’s what I have to say.’




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