The two former lightweight title challengers are set to collide on a stacked UFC 268 card on November 6. Alongside blockbuster championship rematches between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington, and Rose Namajunas and Zhang Weili, Chandler and Gaethje will throw down inside New York City’s prestigious Madison Square Garden.
Since their fight was announced, the pair have been going back-and-forth on social media. They even had an on-air exchange during the UFC 265 weigh-in show. The latest comments have surrounded the opening moments of their upcoming bout.
During a recent interview with ESPN MMA, “The Highlight” suggested he won’t be taking the first backward step when he meets the 35-year-old inside the Octagon. With Chandler suggesting whoever does is a coward, Gaethje guaranteed that “Iron” Mike will change levels early.
Taking to Twitter to respond, the former Bellator Lightweight Champion made a promise of his own.
“Here is a promise to you all…I’m coming forward with reckless abandon. He will take the first backward step. #ufc268”
Given the way Chandler made his debut, which ended with the first-round TKO of the always-durable Dan Hooker, it’s hard to doubt Chandler’s prediction heading into his clash with Gaethje.
However, whether he’d have the same success with an aggressive style on the feet against the Arizona native is a different question. Gaethje is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous standup fighters in the UFC. Before his championship defeat to the legendary Khabib Nurmagomedov, “The Highlight” had left a trail of lightweight destruction that culminated in the decimation of Tony Ferguson at UFC 249.
But while Gaethje might have the edge on the feet, it certainly isn’t likely to be a one-sided affair. Despite only making two walks to the Octagon, Chandler has shown his striking abilities against two of the promotion’s best in the weight class.
The elite wrestler was last in action at UFC 262 in May. In the pay-per-view’s main event, Chandler faced promotional veteran Charles Oliveira for the vacant lightweight gold. Despite being finished with strikes in the second round, the 35-year-old was dominant in the opening round, dropping a man who’d been barely tested since 2017.
With both men having fallen short of the lightweight mountaintop across the last year, they’ll be looking to stake their claim for a second crack at gold with a victory on November 6.
Who do you think will have their hand raised at UFC 268? Michael Chandler or Justin Gaethje?