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Manager: Gaethje supposed to fight Chandler, but UFC wants champ ‘who never lost to Khabib’

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Manager Ali Abdelaziz says Justin Gaethje was supposed to fight Michael Chandler, but the UFC had other plans.

Justin Gaethje was apparently supposed to fight Michael Chandler for the vacant UFC lightweight title, according to manager Ali Abdelaziz.
Justin Gaethje was apparently supposed to fight Michael Chandler for the vacant UFC lightweight title, according to manager Ali Abdelaziz.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

In mid-March, reports about a fight between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler began to surface. At the time, it was supposed to be for a lightweight tournament to determine who faces then champion Khabib Nurmagomedov next.

“The Eagle” finalized his retirement days later, which now leads us to the vacant title fight between Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler at UFC 262 in May. But according to Gaethje’s manager Ali Abdelaziz, the said matchup came to fruition because of the UFC already had an ideal situation in place.

“Listen, Justin was supposed to fight Michael Chandler. That was the talk,” Abdelaziz told MMA Junkie. “We found out Chandler (was) fighting Oliveira, and I get it.

“The UFC wants a champion who never lost to Khabib (Nurmagomedov). If a guy who lost to Khabib becomes the champion … you need more time to make people forget about Khabib, right? They made the move, and I get it.

“It was never 100 percent he was fighting Mike Chandler, but it was mentioned.”

Abdelaziz also revealed that the UFC’s biggest name was brought up, but nothing materialized.

“It was mentioned (Conor) McGregor, too. I know Conor would never fight Justin because I think Justin stylistically is the worst matchup. I truly believe Justin Gaethje will be the UFC champion.”

Gaethje hasn’t seen action since he was put to sleep by Khabib at UFC 254 in October.