Michael Chandler always believed that he would someday find himself fighting for the UFC lightweight title. He just didn’t think it would come so soon after his debut with promotions at the beginning of the year.
“I was not there at all,” Chandler recently told the Post on the phone.
However, this is the deep situation in which Chandler (22-5, 17 finishes) is preparing himself to face Charles Oliveira to decide whether 155 after the retirement of former unbeaten title holder Khabib Nurmgomedov last October. Who will be the next winner in the pound. The two will race for the empty crown at UFC 262’s pay-per-view headliner on Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Making such a huge impact in his UFC debut certainly played a role in reaching this milestone, even in one of the most overweight classes in the sport. Back on January 24, Chandler announced his appearance for those not familiar with the former Bellator lightweight champion with a loud TKO from Dan Hooker right at the halfway point of the first round. It was the 13th first-round win of Chandler’s career. Doing this in a pay-per-view co-main event immediately ensured maximum performance even before a Conor McGregor fight.
Perhaps the biggest reason for Chandler coming here this weekend is the choice made by the man who knocked out McGregor that evening in Abu Dhabi: Dustin Poirier. Despite the UFC’s publicity rankings and sit-ins with independent lists in MMA media, Poirier passed in a title fight and picked up a lucrative rubber-match with McGregor in July for one of his best three.
Chandler said, “I am just the giver of a certain set of circumstances, which Khabib is retiring, and both Poirier and Connor are tied with the trilogy.”
“There is no doubt that Dustin Poirier is the world’s No. 1 player as we speak now,” Chandler said before warning. “He deserves that title shot, but he misses the title shot to fight Connor. It’s his decision, so now everyone turns to Mary and Charles Olivera.”
If it seems that Chandler, 35, probably sees Poirier as the man who still beats him at 155 pounds after being declared a non-linear champion on Saturday, then forget it. As far as he is concerned, “the one who has the title is the champion.”
“I believe I was a top person in the organization [last September], “” Chandler said. “This was proved by my performance against Don Hooker, who was in the top five. Poirier couldn’t complete it in 25 minutes. [last June]. Paul Felder could not finish it in 25 minutes [last February]. I am the only boy in his career who hits him on the head. So my skill set and my resume outside of UFC and now here only speaks in UFC.
“I will be the number 1 man in the world. I will be the champion. And if Poirier can overtake Conor, I fight Poirier, and I defeat him.
While some second guesses are Pozier’s decision to pursue a third fight against McGregor, figures to present the biggest financial reversal of Poire’s career so far, Chandler suggests a possible downside.
Chandler said, “If Connor loses to Connor, Pourier made a bad decision by not fighting for the title in May.” “So there’s a lot of pressure on him to defeat Connor because you don’t want to pass the UFC title shot. At this point, he’s never been a champion. He was an interim champion. So I think that’s something that May haunt him for years to come.
“But that was a decision he made, and I think a lot of people would have made that decision,” Chandler continues, hitting a more sensible tone. “If you get an opportunity to fight Connor, you fight Connor. Whoever wins the fight on July 10, is my first title defender shortly before the end of the year. “
Frankly, Chandler had already flown himself from Houston with UFC Gold on his shoulder. But he knows he has a big challenge ahead of him in Oliveira (30-8, 27 finishes), who has been fighting for over a decade in major MMA promotions, like Chandler. Brazil made their debut at the UFC in 2010 at the age of 20, having since split their careers between 185 and 155 pounds. However, he holds the UFC record for wins (14), having suffered periods from 2010 to 2013 (2–4, 1 no contest) and 2015–2017 (2–4).
But Oliveira, 31, has found new life since the loss of TKO to Felder in late 2017. He has won eight in a row, with seven wins inside distance and a dominant decision over former interim champion Tony Ferguson. Even he picked up a pair of (T) KO wins after his pre-UFC days in 2019.
Chandler made sure to “applaud” Oliveira for regaining the title after all his ups and downs, especially due to going through a rough stretch in someone’s cage.
“I think you see two people who have drawn a roadmap to work hard, win a lot of fights, but also take their losses, learning from their losses and moving on with their losses The excitement and steam don’t necessarily have to become the end, Chandler said, “champion, because all the hard work finally brings color,” Chandler faced a three-fight losing streak between 2013 and 2014. “You still have to stand there. Gotta stay when it happens. “