Michael Chandler says a three-fight losing streak is not indicative of a decline, so ‘Iron’ expects to share the Octagon with the best version of Tony Ferguson at UFC 274.
Heralded as one of the greatest fighters in the lightweight division, Ferguson has hit a snag in his career. The one-time UFC interim champion suffered three consecutive losses to Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush in recent appearances. His performance in those fights have since sparked a debate on his standing as a legitimate threat, with many believing his best days are now behind him.
Chandler has refuted that notion, telling Damon Martin of MMA Fighting that Ferguson has only lost to the upper echelon of the division, and the caliber of the opponent should weigh more than the number of losses.
“I would say his track record thus far would indicate that maybe he has lost a step, but you can’t just look at records and say, ‘Well, he’s lost his last three fights,’” said Chandler. “Those guys that you just mentioned, Charles Oliveira, Justin Gaethje, Beneil Dariush, these are the top guys in the world. When we’re fighting up there in the top of the division, doing this round-robin against the best guys on the planet at 155 pounds, you’re going to win some, you’re going to lose some and every now and then, you’re going to lose a couple in a row just like I have.
“Have I lost a step because I lost two in row? Dropped one to Charles Oliveira and one to Justin Gaethje? I don’t know, it remains to be seen,” continued Chandler. “But I will say this, we’re fighting the best guys in the world. I think any of us inside that top five, top seven could fight anyone else on any given night and become the world champion. That’s how close a lot of these guys are.”
One of the reasons why Ferguson is considered to be diminishing as a fighter is because of the damage he has sustained in his past fights. The 38-year-old was battered by Gaethje on the feet and controlled by Oliveira and Dariush on the ground, but Chandler sees no reason to completely count him out yet.
“You go back to the Justin Gaethje fight, obviously Tony took a lot of damage there,” said Chandler. “But then I will say from a damage standpoint, he did get dominated by Oliveira, I think he got beat pretty bad by Dariush, but he didn’t take a ton of damage, which is great for Tony. But yeah, when you talk about fighting me, I’m slinging leather and I’m trying to separate you from consciousness. I am trying to do maximum amount of damage with every single punch and kick that I throw.
“I think it’s a recipe for Tony Ferguson having a pretty rough night. It’s a recipe for me going out there, getting a finish or putting on a dominant performance, but you can never count Tony out. He is a scary, scary man. He doesn’t really have an off switch. Even Justin Gaethje couldn’t really shut the off switch off. He was still conscious, he was still moving. Tony Ferguson is just that dude.”
Chandler has high expectations for his fight with Ferguson, who he was supposed to be booked against for his highly anticipated debut over a year ago. Now that it is just a few weeks away, the 35-year-old sees himself snapping a two-fight losing streak and returning to the win column.
“It doesn’t matter if Tony Ferguson is on a 10-fight win streak or a 10-fight loss streak, I am preparing like he is Superman,” said Chandler. “I am preparing like he’s the best Tony Ferguson we’ve ever seen. And all I can control is going out there and getting my hand raised. I think Tony Ferguson is the perfect opponent to do that and get myself on the winning track and continue to trot forward toward the title.”
UFC 274 is headlined by a lightweight championship fight between Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje.