Michael Chandler is aiming for a No. 1 contender fight.
Following his ‘Knockout of the Year’ candidate against Tony Ferguson at UFC 274 this past May, the UFC lightweight sought out fights against the upper echelon of the division such as Charles Oliveira, Justin Gaethje and Conor McGregor. The former two-division champion expressed interest in Chandler, who he agreed to share the Octagon with ‘at some stage’ in his return from injury. However, the ’Notorious’ one could return by early 2023, leaving ’Iron’ out of action for longer than expected. And with his propensity for staying active, the No. 5 contender could entertain someone else in the meantime.
So who would he consider? Beneil Dariush, especially if he gets Chandler closer to a championship opportunity.
“Next, I want to put myself in line for the title,” Chandler told TMZ Sports. “I think, in my mind, Beneil Dariush was in the No. 1 contender spot with him and [Islam] Makhachev about to fight to become the No. 1 contender. Beneil Dariush is on a four, five, six — no, seven-fight win streak, maybe. So how do you not say that Beneil Dariush might be the No. 1 contender outside of Islam Makhachev. Essentially the No. 2 contender.
“Maybe you put me and Dariush in by the end of the year, we end up getting some answers pretty quick,” continued Chandler. “You got your new champion in Makhachev or the current champion in Charles Oliveira, then you get a clear-cut No. 1 contender, me or Beneil Dariush. That’s the fight that I see as the biggest potential — and the best potential — for me getting back to the title shot.”
That is good news for Dariush, who told CBS Sports’ Shakiel Mahjouri he requested a fight against Chandler but had yet to hear anything from the UFC.
“I’ve asked for Dustin [Poirier] or [Michael] Chandler, but I’m not hearing a whole lot,” said Dariush at The UFC Hall of Fame Honors in July. “So we’ll see what happens… At this point, I just need somebody in front of me.”
Dariush has not fought since defeating Ferguson via unanimous decision at UFC 262 a year ago. The 33-year-old was scheduled against Islam Makhachev at UFC Vegas 49 but was forced to withdraw after suffering a broken leg and injured ankle in training. Though he avoided surgery, Dariush has found it challenging to get a fight recently.
The No. 6 contender thought he would be rescheduled with Makhachev, but that is no longer an option now that the Russian is vying for the vacant lightweight championship against Oliveira at UFC 280 in October. And despite rumors of a fight with Poirier going around, the ‘Diamond’ promptly shut those down on social media.
Given their respective positions in the division, a fight between Chandler and Dariush is certainly plausible.