Michael Chandler Breaks Down His Rivals In UFC Lightweight Division
Former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler still has yet to make his UFC debut, but he still considers himself as one of the best 155 pounders in the world.
When Chandler was signed to the promotion last month, it was announced that he would serve as the backup replacement for either Khabib Nurmagomedov or Justin Gaethje, should one of them had fallen out of their lightweight unification title bout at UFC 254.
While technically he didn’t fight this past weekend, Chandler told MMA Fighting that he still needs time to recover from his fight camp and weight cut, and that we may not see his debut until next year.
“If anything, I might need a second for the body to heal up a little bit,” Chandler said. “To let myself get back to neutral and let the engines cool down a little bit and maybe fight by the first of the year next year.”
When the promotion books Chandler his first matchup, he expects either an immediate crack at the lightweight title, or a chance to prove he belongs in the top five in the division.
Speaking prior to UFC 254 and Khabib’s retirement from the sport, Chandler assessed his biggest potential rivals in the UFC lightweight division.
“Extremely confident [for a fight against Khabib]. Because I don’t care if it’s day 1 or day 1,000, I’ve put in my 10,000 hours in this sport and I’ve been focusing on beating Khabib since he got in the UFC. I’ve been studying him and I knew he was going to become champion four fights before he actually became champion.
“He’s got the champion’s mindset, he’s got the physical attributes and he’s got a style that has looked about as unbeatable as anyone we’ve ever seen in the UFC. I’ve been training to fight Khabib for six years, eight years.”
“What you need to beat Gaethje, you’ve got to keep your hands up but fight him, also. You’ve got to wear him down like Eddie [Alvarez] did and you eventually get the TKO. If you don’t eventually get the TKO, you’ve got to land more shots than he lands.
“For me, that’s the game plan against Justin Gaethje. If you can lure him into a dog fight, I not only think I win that ‘Fight of the Year’ but that’s just a fight that excites me.”
“I think Dustin Poirier’s one of the most respectful guys in and outside the Octagon in the UFC. He’s got really great technique. He’s a volume puncher. He’s tenacious. He’s got a great chin. I think that’s got Fight of the Night all over it.
“But I think I would be too much for him in the mixing up both styles of the striking and the grappling.”
“Tony Ferguson’s the scariest guy on the roster. He’s got a screw loose. He never gets tired. You have to separate him from consciousness. That’s what excites me about Tony Ferguson. Getting thrown into the deepest, darkest depths of the UFC roster is exactly what stepping in the cage with Tony Ferguson is.
“That’s why I was willing to do it first fight in the UFC. That’s why I said yes to that fight and I needed him to say yes and he didn’t. I’m excited about that fight. That would be a great, great fight and we would get Fight of the Night.”
“Conor McGregor, international combat sports icon. I hope he really comes back. Obviously first fight in the UFC, I’m not going to be sitting here calling out Conor McGregor. I have not earned that yet but I think I match up extremely well against him.
“I think you avoid that big left hand in the first round. He starts to get a little more flatfooted in the second round. Third round, fourth round, fifth round, I would wear him down and look for a submission victory. Similar to Nate Diaz or what Khabib did to him.”
“I think Dan is a phenomenal competitor. I haven’t have the opportunity to meet him. I did meet Dustin Poirier at my last fight and went straight up to him, shook his hand and said, ‘You are a warrior, the fight you and Hooker put on was absolutely amazing.’
“Dan Hooker is a warrior, he’s a young, hungry lion. He’s definitely one of the guys who is the future of this division, going out there and doing what he did against Dustin Poirier. Although he lost the fight, it was a knockdown, drag-out war. He’s exciting. He’s tough as nails. He’s good everywhere. He’s not spectacular anywhere. He’s dangerous in all positions. That’s definitely a fight that’s interesting and he’s got my attention.”
Despite competing in the stacked UFC 155lbs division, Chandler is confident that he will be the division’s champion within the next year.
“I think I’m going to come out of the gate really fast,” Chandler said. “I’m going to win a title in the next 12 months and I’m going to hold that title. Then it will be up to me when I want to retire. I think it will be with the UFC.
“Now we’ve just got to line up the right fight at the right time and I will be UFC champion within the next 12 months.”
Who would you like to see Michael Chandler fight in his UFC debut?