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‘That’s why we have referees’ - Chandler won’t apologize for fish-hooking Poirier at UFC 281

For Michael Chandler, he did nothing wrong at UFC 281, even when he ended up fish-hooking Dustin Poirier mid-fight.

Michael Chandler after his UFC 281 loss to Dustin Poirier.
Michael Chandler after his UFC 281 loss to Dustin Poirier.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Michael Chandler refuses to apologize for fish-hooking Dustin Poirier at UFC 281. He never saw it as a form of cheating, and he maintains the same reasoning in a recent appearance on The MMA Hour.

“People think that we’re in there making decisions like me making the decision to pick up this pen,” Chandler told Ariel Helwani. “It’s not the same when you’re actually inside the confines of MMA and you’re fighting for your life.

“You’re reaching for things, you’re grabbing for things, you’re grappling. A lot of it is muscle memory.

“When I take a guy’s back, and I’ve drilled it a million times, I take a guy’s back, reach down, grab the chin, lift the chin, and then go for the choke. So yes, do I think I need to apologize? I don’t think I do.

“Do I think it was something that people could say, ‘Hey, that was dirty,’ or ‘that was illegal,’ yes, I could definitely see what you’re saying. But 31 fights, you know my reputation. I’ve got a good reputation in this sport. I love the sport. I don’t cheat the sport. I don’t cheat to win.”

As Chandler explained, such occurrences are kept in check by the presence of the referee.

“This one was just unfortunate circumstances and a chain of events that I wish didn’t happen, but they did, and also, that’s why we have referees there. That’s why the referee was there with his eyeballs on every single exchange to let you know if you’re doing something consciously or subconsciously, on purpose or not on purpose.

“But yeah, it doesn’t feel good [to be called a dirty fighter]. I don’t like to hear that, because, whatever, there are going to be people that say things no matter what, be accused of things win, lose or draw. ...

“But I love this sport, and I would never cheat. It is what it is and I can’t change it, aside from I’ve been here 31 fights and I love the sport and I would never cheat intentionally.”

Poirier admitted to biting down on Chandler’s finger while it was in his mouth, which the latter sees no problem with. He even said he would’ve done the same thing.

“He did bite my finger, which isn’t cheating because my finger shouldn’t have been in his mouth. I think that’s when I realized, ‘OK, that’s not the chin,’ because he’s biting down on my hand, and obviously, that’s when I let go.

“It’s somewhat funny. I would never call it funny or downplay it, but it is just like when you think of the stuff we go through as mixed martial artists, and even him being down there, I would have done the exact same thing, whether I thought his hand was in my mouth or not.”

Chandler ended up losing via third-round submission and is now 0-3 for his fights at the Garden. He did, however, take home $50K for Fight of the Night.