It’s safe to say that not many promotional newcomers have made as big of an impact in as short a timeframe as Chandler has since arriving in the UFC. When he signed for the world’s premier MMA organization in 2020, some had low expectations, with a select few expecting his transition to the UFC to follow a similar path to the likes of Ben Askren, who failed in his pursuit of finding success in the promotion.
While he hasn’t won gold and boasts a negative UFC record, Chandler has firmly turned any doubters he had into believers.
Last January, “Iron” arrived in style by finishing Dan Hooker in one round on Fight Island. Fast forward four months and Chandler found himself competing for the vacant lightweight title. Despite being the victim of an incredible second-round comeback from Charles Oliveira at UFC 262, the former Bellator lightweight titleholder was inches away from securing his place on the throne in the opening frame.
And even though he fell to a 1-2 promotional record at UFC 268 last November, Chandler’s contribution to the year’s consensus Fight of the Year against Justin Gaethje ensured his stock rose in defeat.
Chandler Targets A “Big Name” On A “Big Card”
With a strength of schedule about as strong as any fighter has boasted across their first three fights in the UFC, Chandler hasn’t shied away from the big names and the big fights. That’s a trend he hopes continues when he enters the Octagon for the first time in 2022.
During a recent interview with Megan Olivi for ESPN MMA, Chandler outlined his targets in the stacked lightweight division for 2022. As expected, the veteran wants a big-name opponent who will help him provide another entertaining, fun, and back and forth contest for the fans.
“It’s hard, I was talking to my manager… I think the UFC lightweight division is easily one of the toughest, of course, but also one of the most exciting. There are so many different matchups, with obviously everybody inside the top five, you’ve got Conor (McGregor) coming back from injury, you got Tony Ferguson, who is outside the top five but still a guy who is a perennial entertainer. So it’s such an entertaining division to be a part of.
“I want big fights. I want to get close to that title shot… I’ve just gotta get back in the win column. And I want a big, fun, exciting, entertaining fight. I’ve been doing this for a very long time, and obviously every fight in the UFC is huge, but (I) definitely have to be calculated and really think about what the next move is. But it’s gonna be a big name, on a big card, with big title implications, no matter what. And I’m gonna go out there and do what I do; bite down on my mouthpiece and go out there and try to get a finish.”
While his next opponent is yet to be decided, there are a number of 155-pound stars Chandler could be matched up with next. The 35-year-old has made his desire to face MMA’s biggest star clear, a challenge that McGregor suggested he’d be up for down the line.
Chandler also recently went back and forth with Ferguson on Twitter. “El Cucuy” suggested the matchup had been agreed with the UFC but claimed “Iron” was stalling it. In his response, Chandler promised to beat Ferguson from “bell to bell.”
Who would you like to see Michael Chandler share the Octagon with next?