Michael Chandler didn’t get the opportunity to shine at UFC 254, but the former three-time Bellator lightweight champion is hoping to make a splash against Justin Gaethje in his UFC debut.
Chandler, who signed with the UFC in September, was on standby for the UFC 254 main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Gaethje but the fight went ahead as planned and Khabib ended up submitting Gaethje with a triangle choke in the second round to retain his lightweight title.
Nurmagomedov announced his retirement in the post-fight interview, and Gaethje is hoping to return to the octagon in 6-8 weeks which, theoretically, could line up perfectly for a fight against Chandler.
Chandler is also open to possible bouts with Tony Ferguson and Conor McGregor but says Gaethje is the perfect matchup for him.
“At this point, with the way everything changed tonight, I think a fight with Justin Gaethje has always excited me more than anybody in the entire division,” Chandler told The Schmo in a recent interview (h/t MMA Fighting). “More than Conor or Khabib, even though the mystique of beating Khabib and taking his 0 is something special, or fighting Conor on the highest grossing card of the year and making the most money, the red panty night as he likes to call it. Those are all wonderful but when it comes to just straight competitor versus competitor, hand to hand combat, mano a mano, small-town blue-collar American wrestler versus small-town American blue-collar wrestler, that’s me and Justin Gaethje stepping into the cage against each other, so that’s exciting to me.”
Chandler isn’t currently ranked at lightweight but is widely considered one of the best 155ers in the world, having won the Bellator lightweight title three times and holding stoppage victories over the likes of Benson Henderson and Eddie Alvarez, both of whom were former UFC champions.