Despite only stepping into the Octagon for the first time in January this year, Chandler, a former three-time Bellator titleholder, has already faced three top names, come inches away from capturing gold, and thrilled a sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd with a Fight of the Year contender.
After finishing the tough and durable Dan Hooker in his debut at UFC 257, “Iron” fought promotional veteran Charles Oliveira for the vacant belt at UFC 262. Having been on the end of a remarkable second-round comeback, Chandler had to watch “Do Bronx” leave the cage with the title in his possession.
In his attempt to jump back into contention, Chandler’s stock continued to rise, despite falling to a defeat on the scorecards. Across three rounds against former interim champ Justin Gaethje, the 35-year-old threw everything he had and ate everything “The Highlight” served up in return.
Looking to continue his trend of big-name fights, Chandler was quick to callout McGregor last month, who is currently recovering from the broken leg he suffered at UFC 264. In a respectful response, the Irishman praised Chandler’s performance, and expressed his desire to share the Octagon with the #5-ranked contender.
While speaking to Daniel Cormier on a recent episode of DC & RC, Chandler admitted that whilst his ultimate goal remains reaching the 155-pound mountaintop, opportunities like a clash with McGregor is why he got into the sport of MMA.
“For me, obviously, as an athlete, the number one goal (is) I wanna be the UFC champion, I wanna be the number one guy in the world. But as fighters, we get into the sport because we want big stages (and) big opportunities against big opponents in big arenas, and it doesn’t get any bigger than Conor McGregor.”
Chandler Backs His “Linguistic Jiu-Jitsu”
In a challenge unlike most in the UFC, McGregor poses a threat both inside and outside the cage. Not many boast the trash-talking pedigree of “The Notorious” megastar. While Dustin Poirier has admitted his 2014 defeat to McGregor derived from the emotional state his rival’s words pushed him into, many also believe the former double champ’s verbal attacks had a part to play in his 2015 featherweight crowning against José Aldo.
Despite carrying himself in a more respectful way ahead of his own fights, Chandler is more than ready to challenge McGregor on the mic. “Iron” told Cormier that if the bout gets booked, he’ll be prepared to use his “linguistic jiu-jitsu” to combat the Irishman’s attacks.
“To me, (the respect’s) genuine. That’s how I like to do things, I’m not a big trash-talk guy, I’m not gonna attack the guy on social media… I guess if the fight happens, I guess we’ll see (what happens if McGregor trash talks). You might see a different side of me… I think I’m pretty good at using my vocabulary and my linguistic jiu-jitsu to wrap guys up in some words that they may not understand without having to really take to base-level assaults or talking about different things that are gonna be, you know, damaging to a guy’s reputation.
“We’ll see man. I respect Conor for what he’s done, I respect Conor as a fighter, and I even respect his trash-talk game… It is something that I’m looking forward to… If it does (happen), it’s definitely gonna be fireworks inside the Octagon, and I guarantee I can carry my weight outside the Octagon on the microphone.”
McGregor’s trash talk was certainly on display before and after his latest appearance. After a mostly respectful rematch with Poirier in January, the Dublin native went back to his old ways ahead of their trilogy, attacking “The Diamond” and his family.
With his recent comments on Chandler, it seems unlikely McGregor would go to the same level against the former title challenger. But given Chandler’s confidence, perhaps the 33-year-old will be tempted to test his skills on the mic.
Would you like to see Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler square off in 2022?