If all you know about Michael Chandler is that he knocked Dan Hooker silly in his UFC debut, shame on you. Before stepping into the Octagon Chandler was involved in some legendary battles back in his old stomping ground of Bellator MMA.
The most noteworthy of those battles were against Eddie Alvarez and the Pitbull Brothers. Recently, one of those past foes spoke to MMA Fighting and gave Chandler some dues, while also stirring the pot.
“Michael Chandler’s performance in his UFC debut was great,” said Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire when he chatted with Guilherme Cruz. “His opponent was great, but it felt like he was mentally unprepared to face Michael Chandler. He crumbled to his pressure and movement early. Many people thought [Chandler] wouldn’t stand with him, and he ended up knocking him out.”
Cruz asked Freire what he thought would happen if Chandler was matched up with the other big winner from UFC 257; Dustin Poirier, who TKO’d Conor McGregor in the main event.
“I think he wins just as easily and the exact same way. It will be as vicious as his debut.”
Freire and Chandler’s history goes all the way back to 2011. That’s when Chandler beat Freire’s brother Patricky at Bellator 44, in the semi-final of the Bellator Season 4 lightweight tournament. Chandler would go on to win the tournament with a win over Eddie Alvarez.
Chandler would hold that title until he faced Alvarez for a second time, at Bellator 106 in 2013. That split decision loss was the first defeat of Chandler’s career. After that he took back-to-back losses to Will Brooks before rebounding with stoppages over Derek Campos and David Rickels.
In June 2016 Chandler was again matched with Patricky Pitbull, this time for the vacant Bellator lightweight title. Chandler won the fight with an emphatic first round KO. Over the next three years there would be plenty of verbal spats between Chandler and both Pitbull brothers.
Eventually, at Bellator 221 in 2019, Patricio got his chance to avenge Patricky’s losses. And he did just that, TKO’ing Chandler with a first round TKO to claim the Bellator lightweight title. Chandler hasn’t lost since that fight.
With so much history, Freire said he wasn’t exactly a fan of Chandler, but he can still recognize his former foe’s talents.
“I won’t root for him, but I’m realistic and I know the damage he can do in this weight class. He has powerful hands and great wrestling. He’s very aggressive. It’s hard to take him down, and he has good takedowns. He can fight anyone on the feet and has knocked out great strikers already. It will be hard to stop him.”
However, Freire might have revealed his reasoning for heaping praise on Chandler when his discussion with Cruz turned to the time they faced each other at Bellator 221.
“If he can do all that and I stopped him, how good am I?,” said Freire. “Let’s put that to test. After he becomes UFC champion, let’s put promotion against promotion to see who’s the best in the world. He was kicked out of Bellator by me. He didn’t stay there because I kicked him out.”
“If [White] doesn’t do it, his champion is inferior to the Bellator champion, and that’s on him and his promotion,” he continued. “I’ll forever bother them. I’ll give them a chance to prove otherwise. He can make this cross promotion and be able to say my guy is the best in the world, otherwise, if he refuses to do it and stays quiet, he’ll know I have this merit forever.”