If Beneil Dariush gets his way, he’ll be fighting for the UFC lightweight title before the end of the year.
Coming off the biggest win of his career — a lopsided unanimous decision over Tony Ferguson at UFC 262 — Dariush has finally solidified himself as a top-five ranked fighter in the 155-pound division with the championship already in his crosshairs.
While critics will argue that the winner of the upcoming trilogy between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor is the most likely candidate to get the next shot at new champion Charles Oliveira, Dariush says there are a number of factors playing in his favor.
First and foremost, Dariush is quick to remind Oliveira about a fight they had scheduled last year that was put together by the UFC matchmakers only to fall apart without much explanation a few weeks later. Oliveira eventually returned with his own win over Ferguson to earn a shot at the vacant lightweight title while Dariush has knocked off two more contenders as well.
But Dariush never forgot that he was supposed to get a crack at Oliveira almost a year ago and he believes the new UFC champion is now obligated to make good on that fight.
“I think Charles actually owes me a fight,” Dariush told MMA Fighting. “I stepped up to fight him on short notice, right after I had fought Scott [Holtzman] when I was supposed to go on vacation. Sean [Shelby] called me a day after my fight and said ‘hey, do you want to fight Charles in five weeks?’ I think, and I said yeah, let’s do it.
“I think Charles owes me a fight, too, if you think about it. He said he had family issues. He pulled out of my fight. He called out Tony [Ferguson] while he avoided me, got the fight he wanted and then fought for the belt. I’m not knocking him. He did his thing. He got his title shot. He got the title. Now, just own up to the person you were supposed to fight.”
When it comes to the possibility that either Poirier or McGregor will get that shot instead, Dariush knows that’s no foregone conclusion either.
Poirier already passed on the title shot in favor of finishing his trilogy with McGregor and both fighters have gone to battle with the UFC over contract details for recent fights. That all adds up to potential problems that could prevent the winner of the UFC 264 main event from signing onto face Oliveira next while Dariush is already prepared to accept that challenge.
“You’ve also got to remember it’s not just them coming out unscathed, it’s the contract negotiations,” Dariush said about Poirier and McGregor. “With these guys, contract negotiations have fizzled out many times. I think there’s a real possibility of me fighting Charles come November or December.”
While he didn’t end up facing Oliveira last year, Dariush certainly played that fight out in his head numerous times as he thought about all the different scenarios that could serve as a narrative for that matchup.
Obviously, Dariush doesn’t discount what Oliveira brings to the table but he also believes he would be a nightmare become reality for the new UFC lightweight champion.
“Stylistically, I think I am the worst matchup for him in the top five,” Dariush said. “I have the grappling to beat his. I have the striking to beat his. I think I’m more physical than him. That’s it. I think I have the ability to take him out in all that he does.”
Of course, Dariush knows Oliveira didn’t win the title by accident, especially after he was able to overcome a near finish from Michael Chandler in the first round when they met in the UFC 262 main event.
Just because Dariush believes he’ll win doesn’t mean he’s looking past Oliveira in any way.
“I think he looked good,” Dariush said about Oliveira’s recent win. “I think one of the biggest weaknesses he’s had is once he falls behind, he kind of falls apart but in this fight he showed he’s overcome that problem.
“He was hurt in the first round and he still found a way to come back in the second round. Very impressed with Charles.”
Because nothing is set in stone at this point, Dariush concedes that he would be open to another fight if the title shot is not granted to him but until that’s not a possibility, he’s staying on this same course.
As much as he wants to become champion, Dariush has no problem showing patience and putting his priorities in order — like how he’s taking off the next few months to focus on being a father to his daughter due to be born in the very near future.
“This is it, I’m not changing it,” Dariush said about not competing again until the end of the year. “I don’t care what the reason is. Unless there’s divine intervention, I’m not changing it.”