Michael Chandler set for main league debut

Michael Chandler isn’t the primary former Bellator fighter — and even first former Bellator champion — to signal with the UFC, and you’ll make sure he received’t be the final.

Chandler’s decision to sign with the UFC, although, is vastly totally different than when Eddie Alvarez, Will Brooks and even Ben Askren made the leap.

Alvarez and Brooks had been former Bellator light-weight champions and had a mixed 3-1 document towards Chandler within the group. Askren, a former Bellator welterweight champion, had departed the group and was in ONE FC when his contract was traded to the UFC for Demetrious Johnson’s.

Chandler, although, was to Bellator what Derek Jeter was to the Yankees. He was the face of the franchise, the one fixed via the entire comings and goings, the man you related to Bellator within the good instances and the dangerous.

Chandler to the UFC can be like Jeter in a Crimson Sox uniform or Ray Lewis within the Steelers’ black and gold.

But, for those who knew Chandler in any respect, understood what makes him tick, it wouldn’t have been all that a lot of a shock on Sept. 17 when Chandler signed as a free agent with the UFC.

He was uninterested in being requested if he “educated UFC,” or being underrated regardless of his many victories.

Beneath the grins and the pleasantries lies a vicious competitor. And as time ticked by and his 20s become his 30s, Chandler got here to consider that if he ever needed to be thought to be one of many biggest combined martial arts fighters on the earth, he needed to do it on the largest stage, regardless of what number of important wins he had in Bellator.

“I instructed Dana this in our dialog, each time I educated for one of many guys I stepped inside the cage with, I wasn’t coaching to battle them; I used to be coaching to battle the No. 1 man on the earth,” Chandler mentioned. “The No. 1 man on the earth has at all times been underneath the UFC banner. I used to be at all times coaching to beat that man.”

It’s led him to Abu Dhabi the place on Saturday at Etihad Area, he’ll face Dan Hooker within the co-main occasion of UFC 257. A win over the No. 6 ranked Hooker would in all probability put Chandler into the UFC’s high 5 and he may wind up preventing for the UFC belt subsequent.

So when the chance got here, although he had meant a lot to Bellator and vice versa, he by no means had a doubt about what he’d do if a UFC contract supply got here.

He was signing it, as a result of he has lengthy believed he was the most effective on the earth. Being within the UFC was actually the one approach to conclusively show that.

“These are the higher echelon, world-class guys I’ve needed to compete towards since Day 1,” Chandler mentioned.

Michael Chandler shakes arms with Dana White through the UFC 257 press convention occasion inside Etihad Area on Jan. 21, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photograph by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC through Getty Photographs)

These are the sorts of feedback that will get White excited. His thought course of is {that a} fighter ought to be able to tackle the most effective at any time and he has little time for fighters who search for tune-up fights or aren’t pleased with the model of an opponent or how a lot time they’ve needed to put together.

Chandler is the man White sees when he desires about what he desires in a fighter.

“I like that,” he mentioned of Chandler’s perspective. “He thinks he’s the most effective and he desires to show it. That’s what this sport is all about, so I like it listening to him discuss like that.”

Chandler served as a back-up at UFC 254 for the principle occasion, which featured Khabib Nurmagomedov defending his title towards Justin Gaethje. He made weight, however didn’t have to battle.

He mentioned he heard the chirps from a few of his friends since he received the chance to be the back-up, however reiterated a number of instances that every one he needed to do as soon as he signed with the promotion was to do no matter he was requested.

He mentioned earlier than he was given the back-up slot, he’d agreed to fights towards Dustin Poirier and Tony Ferguson, which fell via. Now, he will get a giant shot towards Hooker, however mentioned he’s keen to do what is critical to show himself.

“I didn’t are available and stomp my ft and slam my fist and begin demanding issues instantly,” Chandler mentioned. “I simply mentioned, ‘Hey, give me the most effective alternative you possibly can.’ They needed to offer me a high 5 man instantly. Dana needed to throw me into that fireside instantly with a high 5 man and that’s what they’ve labored to do since Day 1. They’ve held true to their phrase and right here we’re, preventing a high 5 man within the co-main occasion of the largest card of the yr. I couldn’t be happier for the chance.”

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