Michael Chandler made an emphatic statement in his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut, knocking out Dan Hooker in the co-headlining act of the UFC 257 pay-per-view (PPV) event on “Fight Island” on Jan. 23.
After putting the entire 155-pound division on notice, the former Bellator MMA champion was already gearing up for an immediate return to action, revealing to Ariel Helwani that UFC matchmakers wanted him to fight in the co-main event at UFC 258 on Feb. 13, but the opponent offered to him turned it down.
“I had an opportunity, a phone call that said, ‘Hey, would you be interested in fighting in the next couple of weeks?’ And I said yes. There is a big pay-per-view (PPV) coming up and I said yes.”
According to Chandler, he accepted the fight without knowing who the opponent was.
“I didn’t have any names thrown around necessarily but I knew that by process of elimination that it was somebody ranked ahead of me...it’s not happening,” he added. “This opportunity did not come to fruition based on the other person saying no.
“I am trying to get some clarity in this Lightweight division, and I am trying to strike while the iron is hot. This UFC Lightweight division needs a fresh mix-up, a fresh face and a fresh leader and I am right here to put myself on the leaderboard,” he continued.
According to a report from Sherdog, it was Charles Oliveira who turned down the fight. Per Oliveira’s manager — Diego Lima — the reasons behind the move were all around keeping an eye on the big prize. Plus, taking the fight on short notice simply wasn't smart.
“Charles had never been so close to the belt and it’s important to note that he worked hard for that. He is on an eight-fight winning streak, with seven coming via submission or KO. The fans and even Poirier recognized that,” Lima said. “Today is Feb. 1. It makes no sense for us to accept a title eliminator for 11 days from now.
“Charles needs time to lose weight, we lose about two days with visa stuff and of course we need to prepare for the fight itself. Our goal was fight for the belt against Poirier, but if Poirier will not fight for the belt and the UFC wants to make the Chandler fight for the belt, no problem,” he added.
“But all champions have two or three months to make a camp to get ready. We already did crazy stuff like accept Clay Guida in 10 days and Tony Ferguson in 20, but I think that for all Charles has done, he deserves to have a full camp to fight for that title.”
UFC 258 recently lost its original scheduled co-main event after Chris Weidman tested positive for COVID-19, bouncing him from his fight against Uriah Hall. Now, the promotion is left to scramble a bit more to fill the void.