Bellator 192: “Rampage vs. Sonnen” comes to The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. on Jan. 20, 2018, featuring the first bout of the promotion’s Heavyweight Grand Prix between Chael Sonnen vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, as well as a co-main event that pits Welterweight champion Douglas Lima against “The Red King” Rory MacDonald.
For Bellator MMA’s first card on the Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV) with a simulcast on CMT, all guns are being brought to bear. And one Lightweight in particular packs an explosive right hand who could drop a rhino in its tracks.
Former division champion “Iron” Michael Chandler (16-4) is that man, but he’s chosen a curious road to travel for this card. Instead of a rematch with Brent Primus — a man he arguably lost the title to because of injury rather than defeat — he’s taking on an entirely more dangerous opponent in Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Goiti Yamauchi (22-3), a man who wins nearly 82 percent of his fights by submission.
Will this fight prove Chandler deserves that rematch for the title, or is he risking the opportunity to reclaim what’s his against a man who he’s never faced before? Here’s what Michael Chandler had to say about it.
“It really wasn’t my decision, man. If you follow me on social media, I was using the hashtag #BookTheRematch, I was saying ‘book the rematch,’ I was ready to book a rematch. And then (Primus) was on maternity leave or whatever he was doing. I guess he had to take care of things at home. (The) track record speaks for itself — he’s only fought eight times in eight years. He doesn’t really fight much. He’s a part-time fighter. He’s a glorified part-time fighter.”
Chandler may be putting a little extra hot sauce on it, but the facts are accurate. Primus is 8-0 overall fighting from 2010-2017, with the only year that he took two fights being 2013.
“I don’t know how he makes a living. I don’t know if he (teaches) jiu-jitsu classes or what he does. I wanted to fight, wanted to fight, wanted to smash him, and then I realized he wasn’t going to take the fight. I took the only man that stepped up and wanted to fight. A more dangerous opponent, a more experienced opponent, a tougher opponent, a tougher test. That’s what I’m in this sport to do. I’m not here to tip-toe around and call this a fun career.”
With so much talk about the Heavyweight Grand Prix in Bellator right now, a Lightweight Grand Prix might be viable if Primus won’t defend the title ... except that Chandler’s not interested.
“That doesn’t excite me. Who am I going to fight? Patricky Pitbull again? Freakin’ no-name Joe Schmoe again? No. There’s not seven other guys in the Bellator division that deserve to step into the cage with me. I would go up to 170 and fight an eight-man grand prix — now that’s a challenge. Man, these guys are all not on my level. I only say that because I’ve earned it and I’ve lived this for the last eight years. This isn’t a hobby for me.”
Even though Chandler’s teasing the idea of fighting the winner of “Lima vs. MacDonald” by saying he’d go up to Welterweight, let’s stick with why Primus isn’t “on his level” and worthy of a fight.
“I’m here to challenge myself. I’m here to step into the cage with the best guys I possibly can and REAL competitors. (He) is not a real competitor. He got extremely lucky on one night. That’s exactly where I’m at. I could care less if I ever fight that man again. I want big fights. I’d like to fight a bunch of bigger names, huge names compared to the aforementioned champion.”
In short, Goiti Yamauchi is to Michael Chandler a bigger name and a better fighter than Brent Primus. And while Chandler takes his submission skills seriously, his self-belief is still high.
“He’s never stepped into the cage with anybody even close to Michael Chandler and my abilities. I’m not gonna be dumb and put myself in precarious situations just to prove a point. I’m more of a veteran and smarter than that, but, I have a 70 to 80 percent finishing rate as well. The majority of my fights are finished within the first two rounds by knockout or submission. The last time he fought a wrestler in Bubba Jenkins he got beat.”
Once again the facts are accurate in that Jenkins beat Yamauchi at Bellator 151, but that was also the fight that caused Yamauchi to re-evaluate and move from Featherweight back up to Lightweight. He’s perfect (3-0) since with three submissions and Chandler prepared with that in mind.
“Yeah, I mean I’ve worked every day on submission defense and cage control, cage defense, as well as fighting a guy who throws a variety of strikes. He’s a puzzle like every fighter. I’m very great at solving guys’ puzzles or just disregarding that the man is a puzzle and just running right through him. You know that’s what I’ve got. That’s what I’ve done in a lot of my fights. I’m just overwhelming when I step into the cage.”
Depending on the ear you listen to Chandler with you could either take his words as confidence or arrogance. He’s a two-time Lightweight champion so it’s hard to not say he’s proven what he says to be true.
“We’re dealing with a lot of heartless people in this sport. People who don’t have the heart to be disciplined enough to train hard, do things right, and eat right, and heartless when it comes into a real firefight, a real battle. The sooner that fighters can realize that the ones that really do put in the work deserve to be the best, and the ones that really do believe that they have a calling on their life, the better off this sport is going to be.”
That might just earn him the nickname “Sora” with a few fans, but I think “Iron” Mike Chandler works much better. Find out this weekend if Goiti Yamauchi has the heart to hang.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Rampage vs. Sonnen” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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