Chandler, a former three-time Bellator champion, arrived in the UFC last year. After serving as backup for Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s final appearance at UFC 254, “Iron” made his long-awaited promotional debut at UFC 257 in January. In a tough first assignment, Chandler was matched up with the always-tough and entertaining Dan Hooker. In perhaps the most impressive and emphatic debut performances in UFC history, the 35-year-old finished “The Hangman” inside the first round.
After Khabib vacated the 155-pound belt, Chandler found himself fighting for gold in just his second Octagon outing. He faced UFC veteran Charles Oliveira at UFC 262 in May. Despite coming inches away from capturing gold in the opening frame, Chandler was finished on the feet in the second round.
While “Do Bronx” gets set for his first title defense against Dustin Poirier, Chandler will be looking to secure his status as number one contender with an impressive performance this weekend against Justin Gaethje. The pair will meet on the main card of a stacked UFC 268 event inside Madison Square Garden.
Chandler Draws Parallels Between His & Gaethje’s UFC Treatment
Like Chandler, Gaethje’s last appearance saw him fall short of the lightweight mountaintop. “The Highlight” was the final man to challenge the dominance of Khabib. The former interim champion has been without an opponent since his submission loss to the Dagestani last year.
Gaethje has made it public knowledge that he was, and still is, unhappy that he wasn’t selected to fight for the vacant belt at UFC 262. In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Chandler suggested his own inclusion in the May pay-per-view’s main event is the root of a legitimate dislike that his upcoming opponent holds for him.
“There is also some legitimacy to, I think, why he doesn’t like me. I will sit here and admit, when ever there was a pool, whenever Khabib retired and there was a pool of all of us, Justin Gaethje might have deserved to fight for the title more than me, more than Charles Oliveira, so I think there’s some resentment there, which is completely fine, completely warranted. I would have thought the exact same thing.”
Discussing his entry into the UFC, Chandler said he asked for the best guys in the weight class in order to test himself and see if he was as good as he thought. He admitted that attitude brought him opportunities that upset people, including Gaethje.
“I have come into the UFC and made a splash. I didn’t ask for a splash, I came in and just said, ‘Hey, I want a top guy right away so I can either go ahead and get knocked out and end this career and I wasn’t as good as I thought I was, or maybe I am that good.’ That’s all I wanted to do… I’ve gotten some opportunities and I think that’s rubbed some people the wrong way. I think that’s rubbed Justin Gaethje the wrong way.”
Despite that, Chandler believes his scenario is very similar to Gaethje’s when he first joined the UFC. Suggesting the pair have experienced the same level of “Dana White privilege,” Chandler cited Gaethje’s clash with Eddie Alvarez and the host of opportunities “The Highlight” has had in the promotion as the reasons his foe shouldn’t look down on the #4-ranked contender’s fortunes.
“I believe Justin Gaethje got the same amount of ‘preferential’ treatment, the same of ‘Dana White privilege’, the same amount of what ever you wanna call it. He came from outside the UFC, came in, got a top-five guy right away. If he would’ve beat Eddie Alvarez, he would have got a title shot. But he lost to Eddie Alvarez, which made him go fight another couple fights. He’s been in some big commercials, he’s been in big fights, he’s headlined cards. He and I have had very similar roads. I think he deserved it because he earned it. He probably, in his heart of hearts, really truly believes that I have deserved it and earned it. But he needs to convince himself that I am seeking attention… or that I’m a fake and a phony.”
The term “Dana White privilege” was created by charismatic lightweight Tony Ferguson. It was directed at Chandler during the UFC 262 press conference. “El Cucuy” suggested “Iron” ducked him and had “shit handed to him.” Since then, the likes of Leon Edwards and Aljamain Sterling have all cracked out the famed phrase.
“Rocky,” who many feel has been hard done by in his quest for a title shot, suggested he’s in need of some more of the UFC kingpin’s privilege in order to land himself a meeting with the welterweight king. The UFC Bantamweight Champion, meanwhile, suggested his bitter rival Petr Yan is a prime example of “Dana White privilege.”
At UFC 268 this Saturday, Michael Chandler will look to prove his place in the lightweight top five is down to his own abilities, rather than favor from the UFC brass.
Who do you think will have their hand raised at UFC 268, Michael Chandler or Justin Gaethje?