After months of hype, multiple time Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler finally made his UFC debut against Dan Hooker, dusting the New Zealand contender in the first round with a massive left hook and some violent ground and pound.
Now “Iron Mike” finds himself atop the extremely competitive UFC lightweight division with just one win. UFC president Dana White casually tapped him to fight for the soon-to-be vacant 155 pound title. And we imagine he’ll find himself on the edge of being top 5 ranked, if not in the top 5, when official rankings are updated this week.
Thems some huge gains for two and a half minutes of work in the Octagon. But following the fight Chandler set his sights even higher: towards retired lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“You guys heard me, I would love for Khabib to come back,” he said at the post-fight press conference. “I get it. I haven’t earned the right for him to think that he is not levels above me yet with just that performance. But I promise you, I could beat that man. I promise you, if he steps into that Octagon with me he becomes 29 and Chandler, not 30-0. So we will see.”
“I looked into all these cameras and I said ‘Listen, Khabib. You are the greatest of all time. You are the GOAT. You are undefeated, you have looked unbeatable. You are right. None of these guys can hold a candle to you. What are you going to do, come back and rematch one of these guys? It’s not gonna happen, you don’t need to do that. You’re a champion.’”
“But when a guy who shows he’s got a wrestling pedigree, a guy who’s not undefeated?” Chandler continued. “Listen, I’m not undefeated. I wear my L’s on my sleeve. I got five of ‘em. Couple of ‘em were weird stoppages, TKO injury defeats, whatever you call them. But every time I’ve come back better. I am by no means a perfect man inside that cage, inside that Octagon. But I promise you, I can beat that man. I promise you, I can beat Khabib.”
Khabib aside, Chandler was okay with White’s suggestion that he fight Dustin Poirier for the vacant title too, despite having a serious love-on for “Diamond.”
“There’s not a man on the roster that I respect more than Dustin Poirier,” he said. “I’m borderline a fan of the man. We sat next to each other at the weigh-ins just talking about our wives, our kids, our life ... he’s the kind of guy I’d love to step inside the Octagon and beat the crap out of for 25 minutes, we both get bonuses, we kiss our wives and our kids and enjoy our lives. He’s one of the good ones.”
Unfortunately for “Iron Mike,” Dustin Poirier shares the admiration but was very clear: he would not fight Chandler for the belt. But even with a win over Conor McGregor, is that the kind of demand Dustin can make? For his part, Chandler sounds ready to go with the flow.
“If that’s what Dana wants, who am I to let him down? I took zero damage in this fight, I’m ready to go out there and compete again ASAP. Whether it’s in the sands of Abu Dhabi or under the bright lights of Las Vegas, I am ready.”
White will be happy to hear Chandler is still healthy after his high flying victory backflip off the cage. The UFC president already seemed in a slightly surly mood at the UFC 257 post-fight press conference (understandable given ESPN+ outages, McGregor losing, and Khabib refusing to come back). While he praised the Bellator import for performing well in his UFC debut, he got really animated about the flip.
“Do you guys hate the backflips as much as I hate the backflips?” White asked the media. “It’s just f**king ... the kid gets his fight in the UFC and does a backflip and it looks like he’s going to blow out his f**king ankles, his knees, and his spine. I just don’t get the backflip thing and I don’t like it. Somebody’s going to get f*cking hurt doing that.”