Bellator 237: “Fedor vs. Rampage” takes place Sun., Dec. 29, 2019 at Saitama Super Arena in Japan, airing Dec. 28 on Paramount Network. A Heavyweight main event between Fedor Emelianenko (38-6, 1 NC) and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (38-13) evokes memories of PRIDE Fighting and should be a fun fight for everyone involved.
“Iron” Michael Chandler (19-5) is looking to have a little fun himself in the co-main event. He was originally scheduled for a rematch with Ben Henderson (28-8) but that fight got scrapped when Henderson withdrew due to injury. “Da Gun” Sidney Outlaw (14-3) was called on to step in and keep Chandler on this card.
Outlaw is an interesting challenge for Chandler. He’s on a nine-fight win streak including a victory over Roger Huerta in his Bellator debut, with seven of 14 wins (50%) coming via submission. That may be good news for Chandler considering he’s never tapped out in a fight, suffering only three losses by knockout and two by decision.
More importantly this fight could be Chandler’s ticket to a rematch with “champ-champ” Patricio Freire (30-4) for the Lightweight title. Their first fight ended so quickly that it hardly seemed like a fitting end to the long simmering beef between the two veterans.
Chandler recently spoke with MMA Mania about the late change of opponent and whether or not he finds not getting to face Henderson again frustrating.
“A little bit. There’s always that moment of let down every time an opponent pulls out. You know for me I’ve had an opponent pull out of a fight or an opponent change probably six or eight times in my career, which is a lot. But it’s just one of those things where you feel sorry for yourself for a day and then you get right back on the game plan.”
Outlaw may bring an unexpected change to this huge card in Japan, but he doesn’t bring a huge change into how Chandler expects this fight to go.
“I found out I’m fighting Sidney Outlaw and the game plan doesn’t really change much. We continue on the same course of action and tweak a couple of things. For me man it’s not about Benson Henderson or Sidney Outlaw, it’s about being the best version of myself when I step inside that cage in the Saitama Super Arena in front of 40,000 Japanese fans.”
With a maximum capacity of 36,500 he’s not far off for what the venue can hold, though it may not be configured that way for the show. With “Fedor vs. Rampage” headlining the show they will undoubtedly try to pack people in.
“And that’s the thing — these fans are going to come out of the woodwork to remember the old Pride days. We all remember those old Pride days. I was introduced to the sport of mixed martial arts by my good friend and college roommate Raymond Jordan, who used to walk to Blockbuster and bring back the VHS tapes and pop ‘em in the VCR. This is exciting and the Japanese crowd is going to show up and they’re going to be excited. They love to see big large massive live events and the Saitama Super Arena is about an iconic a venue as you can have.”
It’s definitely on my “bucket list” of places I want to see a live pro wrestling or MMA event before I die, and it’s the place where Chandler wants to see Outlaw’s win streak die.
“He’s a guy who is pretty basic and straightforward. He’s got good wrestling, he’s got good grappling, he’s not afraid to exchange leather. He’s also never stepped foot in the cage with a world class talent like me. His last fight against Roger Huerta, he looked good, but the discrepancy in the difference between Roger Huerta’s skills and my skills are going to be VERY apparent from the first exchange.”
That’s classic “Iron” Mike Chandler confidence speaking. It rubs some MMA fans the wrong way but it’s also the reason he’s been a three-time Lightweight world champion.
“You know for me this isn’t about him or Benson Henderson or anything besides me stepping into that cage and fighting like I have trained, listening to my coaches, sticking to the game plan and looking for a finish wherever it arises.”
I asked Chandler for his take on the fact that Outlaw openly described himself as “a fan of Michael Chandler” going into this fight. Here is what the former champ had to say.
“The good thing about this sport man is it takes all kinds of people. Nate Diaz is a fan of nobody, right? But that’s just his mentality. Then again you look at Frankie Edgar, you look at Georges St-Pierre, you look at some of these other guys. We just saw Max Holloway talk better about (Alexander) Volkanovski better than anybody has in his entire career, and the man just beat him and took his belt you know?”
While Chandler is not “a fan” of his opponent in the exact same way, there’s a genuine respect for what Outlaw has accomplished to get to where he is today.
“This sport is full of men and women who step into the cage for different reasons. Sidney Outlaw was homeless a couple of years ago. His rise to fighting now at Saitama Super Arena and making probably a pretty decent paycheck because Bellator needed someone to step in as a late replacement, that’s a dream come true for a young man like that. So whether he’s a fan of me or he’s a fan of the sport or he hates my guts, it doesn’t really matter, we’re all motivated by different things.”
And at the end of the day, what motivates Chandler is the desire to prove himself while also providing a living for himself and his family.
“I want to go out there and I want to inflict bodily harm and finish him in the first round, not because I dislike him, not because I am not a fan of his work, not because I hate his guts, but because I have a family to take care of. I made a promise to my wife and my son, the day that I married my wife and the day that we adopted my son, I made a promise to both of them that I would love and take care of them until the day that I die. Every single one of these fights is another opportunity to do that.”
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of Bellator 237: “Fedor vs. Rampage” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
Bellator 237’s main card will start at 10:00 p.m. ET on Paramount Network. MMAmania.com will deliver results and play-by-play for the televised Bellator MMA card HERE.