Continuing the trend of his UFC career so far, Chandler will be entering the Octagon with another killer on Saturday. After signing with MMA’s biggest promotion last year, the former three-time Bellator Lightweight Champion made his first appearance at UFC 257 in January. In a tough first test on paper, “Iron” faced #6-ranked Dan Hooker. Less than three minutes into the opening frame, Chandler finished “The Hangman.”
With such an impressive and clinical debut performance, Chandler found himself fighting for UFC gold in just his second bout for the promotion. Following Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s retirement, the 35-year-old faced Charles Oliveira for the 155-pound belt at UFC 262. Despite coming inches away from title glory in the first round, Chandler was finished on the feet by “Do Bronx” in the second.
Now nearly six months later, Chandler will look to secure a second crack at having a UFC strap wrapped around his waist. On a stacked UFC 268 main card, he’ll face former interim champ Justin Gaethje.
Chandler Isn’t Afraid To Wrestle Gaethje
While ‘bad blood’ might not be the word to describe their rivalry, Chandler and Gaethje have certainly engaged in a healthy amount of back-and-forth ahead of their clash. The main narrative has surrounded Gaethje’s claim that “the first guy to take a step back is a coward.” The Arizona native also suggested Chandler will shoot for his legs early to avid taking a backward step.
Having initially insisted he’ll push forward with “reckless abandon” and force “the Highlight” to take the first backward step, Chandler appears to have now somewhat gone back on that claim. During an interview with The Schmo, the #4-ranked contender claimed he’ll change levels and take the fight to the ground if he so pleases.
“Yeah, it doesn’t matter. I mean, I’m not really worried about it. I mean, quite frankly, I don’t know whether I will shoot for the legs or not. Because when you’re just in the moment, when you’re fighting, when you’re training, when you’re in here training, you’re just going off the instinct. You know, you train so hard you train so many reps, so many hours, so many different techniques, that you have to put your 10,000 hours in for those techniques, and those scenarios, those decisions, to be innate, to be engrained inside your DNA.
“So I think I am a complete mixed martial artist. I think I have the power to knock Justin Gaethje out. I think I have the ability to mix it up, to be able keep him on his heels. If I want to take the fight to the ground, I believe I’ll be able to take it to the ground, I can keep it there, and I can finish him there. So we’ll see. This is just the confidence I have in all these different positions. And either way, I’m excited to compete against him.”
Whether the fight stays entirely on the feet or ventures to the mat, one thing for certain, and one thing both men have assured fans, is the clash won’t be short on entertainment. With the winner potentially in line for a fight against the victor of next month’s championship clash between Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira, the stakes will certainly be high inside Madison Square Garden on November 6.
Who do you think will have their hand raised at UFC 268, Michael Chandler or Justin Gaethje?