Michael Chandler won’t settle for anything less than a high-profile fight in his UFC debut.
The former three-time Bellator lightweight champion was on standby for the UFC 254 main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje and is now chomping at the bit to get his hands on either Tony Ferguson or Gaethje.
Speaking on a recent episode of UFC Unfiltered, Chandler explained why he deserves to fight a ‘top-five guy right away’ and believes a win over Gaethje or Ferguson ought to silence the critics.
“Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje would be number one and number two of the guys I want to fight,” Chandler said (h/t MMA Fighting) . “I think it’s a great introductory fight to the UFC fans of who Michael Chandler is. They’re both great fights, they’re both guys who fight. As you guys have seen who watched my fights, guys who run away, that’s the best way to try to beat me is to try to run away from my pressure. Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson are going to meet me in the middle of the Octagon and we’re going to have a blast. So either of those guys sounds like a great fight.”
“I think if we do look at the past as a predictor of the future or right now, you look at Ben Askren, he drew Robbie Lawler right away. High profile fight, top-five guy. You look at Justin Gaethje coming over a couple years ago from WSOF which, no shade towards them at the time or his track record, but my resume, some of the fights and wins I have, and Bellator as an organization, I think, is a step above where he came from, he also drew a top-five guy right away in Michael Johnson. So I don’t think I’m being entitled by coming in and saying I would like a top-five guy right away.”
Chandler acknowledges he is at the bottom of the pecking order and is willing to prove his worth before he fights for the title.
“Let’s be honest, I share a division with the biggest name in combat sports,” he said. “The most polarizing guy we may ever see and his name is Conor McGregor. So if Conor McGregor is in the weight class, and there needs to be an interim belt, chances are he could be fighting for it and I don’t fault the UFC for that. I realize I’m the new guy, the lowest guy on the pecking order. I just want to come in and earn it.”
Chandler isn’t currently ranked but is widely considered one of the best lightweights in the world. The 34-year-old holds notable stoppage victories over Benson Henderson and Eddie Alvarez, both of whom were former UFC champions.