Chandler has found himself well in the mix of the 155-pound elites despite only having two Octagon outings under his belt. After making the switch from Bellator to the UFC in 2020, “Iron” made his promotional debut on Fight Island in January this year. In what was a tough opening test on paper, the 35-year-old faced the relentless and entertaining Dan Hooker. Halfway through the opening round, Chandler recorded one of the most impressive debut victories in UFC history.
Following his TKO win against “The Hangman,” Chandler found himself booked to fight for the title at UFC 262, courtesy of Dustin Poirier’s decision to purse a money trilogy fight with Conor McGregor rather than compete for gold. At the May pay-per-view, the former Bellator champion faced UFC mainstay Charles Oliveira for the vacant 155-pound belt. Despite dominating the opening frame, Chandler was on the receiving end of a remarkable comeback, and fell to “Do Bronx” via a second-round TKO.
Following the first blemish on his UFC record, Chandler will be looking to re-enter the win column in his next outing on November 6. However, he probably couldn’t have chosen a tougher opponent to try to rebound against. At UFC 268, the former NCAA Division 1 All-American will welcome Justin Gaethje back to the Octagon.
Like Chandler, “The Highlight” hasn’t fought since falling short of the lightweight mountaintop in his last appearance. After a submission defeat to the great Khabib Nurmagomedov last October, Gaethje found himself on the sidelines and snubbed of the chance to fight for the vacated belt. He’ll look to immediately return to title contention with an impressive performance against the #4-ranked contender.
Chandler is well aware of the challenge he’s set to face next month. During a recent interview with ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto, “Iron” assured fans that, like usual, he’s preparing for a war.
“Truthfully, I’m always prepared for a war. That’s what you have to do. You prepare for that war, the worst-case scenario, deep in the suck, deep in the middle of these tough, tough rounds against a very tough opponent who you just can’t put away [and] he’s trying to put you away. That’s what you prepare for.
“You never prepare for the quick knockouts, you never prepare for the quick submissions. You hone those skills in order to have those skills come out in the Octagon. This camp isn’t much different.”
Further discussing his upcoming opponent, Chandler claimed that Gaethje is “by far” the scariest and craziest opponent he’s ever faced. Nevertheless, the former three-time Bellator Lightweight Champion suggested that only encourages him to train and prepare even harder.
“I will say, I think Justin Gaethje is the scariest guy that I’ve ever fought, he’s the craziest guy that I’ve ever fought. I’ve fought some very tough guys in the past, but he by far takes the cake. There’s that little bit of added intrigue to it, and really it just wakes me up a little bit earlier in the morning, it helps me go a couple extra rounds, it helps me do a little bit more and be a little bit more focused in my preparations because I know this guy ain’t going away quickly.”
Who do you think will have their hand raised at UFC 268, Michael Chandler or Justin Gaethje?