Bellator 180: “Sonnen vs. Silva” goes down this Saturday night (June 24, 2017) inside Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. And it’s finally time for Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva to settle years of verbal abuse and thinly-veiled threats by trading smack talk for fisticuffs inside a locked cage live on pay-per-view (PPV).
Animosity may have fueled Bellator 180’s main event, but excellence is what drives the title fight earlier in the night as “Iron” Michael Chandler (16-3) puts his Lightweight belt on the line against Brent Primus (7-0). Since returning to his winning ways at Bellator 138 in St. Louis, Chandler has gone on a four-fight win streak during which he recaptured the vacant 155-pound title and successfully defended it against Benson Henderson in San Jose.
Primus represents a brand new challenge for Chandler, though, in that he’s an undefeated, unheralded fighter who quietly came in under the radar to become the No. 1 contender.
MMAmania.com recently spoke with Chandler about how he plans to successfully solve the Primus puzzle. However, to kick things off, I asked Chandler for his thoughts on the departing Sean Grande declaring that Chandler vs. Henderson was arguably the best fight he ever called.
“I appreciate that, man. Sean’s a class act and it’s sad to see him go, but I know he’s a heck of a talent and he’s awesome behind the mic, so he will have nothing but upside moving forward.”
In sadness there is joy, though, because Chandler knows Mike Goldberg and Mauro Ranallo get to call the action at MSG on June 24.
“Mike Goldberg IS the voice of mixed martial arts. When you watched UFC growing up and you watched those UFC shows back in the day, Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan that was what MMA was. That’s what MMA sounded like. Since then, we’ve seen a lot of different promotions come up and build and grow, and Jimmy Smith and these other guys have done a great job, but to hear Mike Goldberg — and of course I won’t get to hear it until after I get done fighting — but I can’t wait to be able to watch and hear Mike say, ‘IT’S ALL OVER.’”
He may not get that chance as Ranallo and Smith will call the PPV portion, but even to hear Ranallo’s signature “MOMMA MIA” he needs to deliver a finish against Brent Primus, and that’s not something that Chandler is taking for granted.
“That’s a dangerous guy. He’s a dangerous guy who just kinda flies under the radar. He’s easy to underestimate because he’s not a big name and he doesn’t have a huge record and this and that. If anything, that’s motivated me to know that I’m putting this belt on the line against a guy who has got nothing to lose ... and that’s a dangerous man.”
Even though Primus is indeed a “dangerous” fighter with 57 percent of his wins coming via submission (four out of seven), Chandler’s modus operandi is to not worry about the man in front of him.
“It’s time to just go out there and perform. I’m not focused on Brent Primus, I’m not focused on anything besides myself. I’m focused on me and my performance and my techniques and my skill set, and biting down on my mouthpiece and going out there and getting a win. If I do everything — if I fight to best of my abilities that night — it’s going to be a quick night .. a fun night.”
Chandler talked about being leaner, stronger and more muscular in his preparation for the fight at MSG, but that just naturally invites more questions about the Henderson fight. Chandler seemed gassed in the fifth round, and he can tell you the reason.
“I think it’s a natural progression of a guy who doesn’t necessarily have a governor. You know I’ve never pumped the brakes. I don’t pump the brakes much in my fights. That’s led me to a lot of wins and that’s led me to a lot of dominant performances, but it’s also been my demise in certain situations. You look at a guy like Benson Henderson who lost the fight because he wasn’t able to push the pace that I did. You know he might have won the fifth round, but I won the four rounds before that and he couldn’t finish me.”
There’s little doubt that fifth round was a valuable learning tool for Chandler, though, one that caused him to change up his strategy just a little bit going forward in title fights.
“I think it’s definitely one of those things that I’ve looked at in my career and known that, I’ve come from that wrestling background where you want to compete for seven hard minutes. Seven hard minutes is WAY shorter than 25 minutes. That’s what you’ve got to get used to. You’ve got to realize that you don’t always have to be on offense, you don’t always have to be moving forward, you don’t always have to have your foot on the gas, pedal to the metal. There’s got to be times where you’ve got to give and take. You’ve got to not force so many things in a fight.”
Wise words from a champion who is coming into his own in his second title reign. And from a man who is thrilled to be fighting at the historic “Garden” this weekend.
“It’s awesome, man. I tell you what, it’s one of those things you dream about as a fighter. It’s a little bit unfortunate (because) you don’t really want to think about it too much. I can sit there for hours and hours and hours on YouTube watching all the big boxing fights that have happened there and how big this historic arena is, but it’ll only add pressure and add a layer of weight that you don’t want on your shoulders. Right about 11 o’clock, after I’ve already finished Brent Primus, and I’ve got my hand raised and the belt around my waist and I’m walking to the back and shaking hands and signing autographs with fans, kissing my wife and hugging my team, the weight will finally be lifted and I’ll finally be able to enjoy the experience of Madison Square Garden and go watch the rest of the fights on that card and then enjoy a good night in New York City!”
First comes the title match, then comes the after party, so make sure to see the Chandler vs. Primus fight in-person or live on PPV.
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