Former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler has booked his third UFC appearance for UFC 268, which is scheduled for November 6 in Madison Square Garden in New York City. His opponent is fellow former UFC lightweight title contender Justin Gaethje.
However, the possibility of Chandler facing Gaethje in New York this November just took a big hit. That’s thanks to New York’s efforts to curb an expected fourth wave of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
New York City’s 7-day-average for new cases is currently clocked at 1,409. That rate is the highest it has been in the past three months. New York’s percent positive, confirmed cases, probable cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all currently trending upwards.
In light of these facts, New York has instituted a mandate for proof of vaccination for various activities throughout the city. These activities include indoor dining, indoor fitness and indoor performances and entertainment.
With these restrictions coming into place, Chandler—who is not vaccinated against COVID-19—believes he will be in violation of the mandates should the UFC keep his fight with Gaethje at MSG.
“I just saw that New York is dropping some heavy mandates on the city of New York City,” Chandler said on Instagram Live (ht MMA Junkie). “Basically, they’re requiring you to be vaccinated (and) show proof of vaccination for indoor dining, indoor fitness and indoor performances and entertainment. Obviously a UFC card, a UFC fight being thrown at Madison Square Garden is considered indoor entertainment and indoor performance. I will not be vaccinated at that point. I don’t know how many fighters, if I was to fight on that Nov. 6 card – or whoever is fighting on Nov. 6 at Madison Square Garden – I don’t know how many fighters will be vaccinated. I don’t really have a tally on who is or isn’t.
“It’s not that I’m anti-vax. It’s not that I don’t believe in the vaccine, necessarily. I’m just not going to get the vaccine until it’s 100 percent FDA approved. We’ve had hundreds of clinical trials, just like we had the vaccines that my son has had – measles and chicken pox and all of the vaccines that have been around for 100 years that have been proven. We shall see. I don’t know what’s going to happen. More than anything, the chances of the UFC being able to sell out Madison Square Garden with only people that are vaccinated really cuts down their ability to sell out Madison Square Garden. So I don’t really know. I think it calls into question if Madison Square Garden will actually happen, to be honest with you guys. The UFC is brilliant and geniuses at putting things together and putting their fights together. But as I said, I’m not anti-vaccine. I think vaccines are effective. I think it’s everybody’s choice whether they want to take the vaccine. I won’t be vaccinated by Nov. 6, so I won’t be able to perform or entertain at Madison Square Garden. So we shall see.”
The Federal Drug Administration has fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chandler left Bellator in 2020 to sign with the UFC. His Octagon debut came at UFC 257 in January. There he defeated Dan Hooker by first round knockout.
His second UFC appearance was against Charles Oliveira for the vacant UFC lightweight title. He lost that bout by second round TKO.