St. Louis -- Michael Chandler said he was going to got out and get a dominant win at Bellator 157: Dynamite 2 on Friday night (June 24, 2016) and he did just that, starching Patrick Freire (16-8) in the opening round with a bomb of a right hand to score the knockout victory (highlights) and win the Bellator Lightweight title for the second time in his career.
Did it go down exactly the way Chandler envisioned?
"You never know how fights are going to go," Chandler (15-3) told MMAMania at the post-fight press conference. "I can't think of a better situation than going out and getting a first-round knockout. I moved all the way across the country for this training camp. Away from the comfort of my own home. Away from my wife, who has been so amazing and supportive through it all. I really, really polished up every single aspect of my game. You and I both know how great Neil Melanson's ground game is. He was the reason I moved to the Blackzilians for this training camp. It just so happens I got my favorite coach in the entire world, Neil, and I end up getting a phenomenal striking coach in Henri [Hooft]. Him and I have grown together as friends and as coach and fighter. And a great group of guys to train with. It was a phenomenal training camp. I would've loved to have shown my improved ground game. Whenever you can get in and get out and not get hit, as I've done way too many times in this sport. I'm very grateful for that."
Working with a highly-touted striking coach like Hooft appears to be paying dividends for Chandler's standup game, evident by his huge knockout victory over Freire. The question is whether or not the 155-pound champ can continue to evolve on the feet under the tutelage of Hooft.
"I don't mean to sound cocky, but I feel like I'm just scratching the surface," said Chandler, who has now fought in a Bellator record seven title fights. "I think Henri Hooft's striking game and his striking tactics and his system is perfect for me. The day I got there and I watched Robin van Roosmalen, world champion kickboxer and another guy drill, I said, 'I want that.' Tonight that was that coming to fruition. My hands have gotten faster and I'm continuing to get more power in my hands. And just the comfort level. I was actually in that fight calm, collective and just cool as a cucumber and I let the fight play out, let the knockout happen and it came in dramatic fashion."
The 30-year-old Missouri native and former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler brought the crowd to its feet after dropping "Pitbull" in the first round. He immediately jumped on top of the cage to soak in all the love and excitement of the hometown crowd inside the Scottrade Center.
He was asked to describe exactly what that moment felt like.
"It was great. It's so amazing. I think I was a little excessive, but there was a ton of people there and I have such an amazing support system," added Chandler. "I have people following me since high school wrestling for no reason. I really don't understand besides me trying to work hard and do my best. People have followed me since high school wrestling and now in my mixed martial arts career. I just have such a great and amazing support system and I would be a liar if I sat here and said it wasn't because of all their support and all my family, who worked two jobs to make sure I went to every single wrestling camp and got me to where I needed to be, and the amazing support system that I have now that handle all my crap throughout this whole fight week when I'm cutting weight and stuff. It's such a group effort. It's so amazing and tonight was the climax of all that being able to hoist that belt up in the air for the St. Louis card."
Seeing as Chandler is back on top of his game, he'll continue to thrive as one of Bellator's most prized champions moving forward. And considering former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight king Benson Henderson is looking to move back down to 155 pounds after an unsuccessful run at Welterweight, Chandler may already have his next opponent lined up.