Michael Chandler won the Conor McGregor sweepstakes.
The Ultimate Fighter 31 (TUF) is set to air next week (Tues., May 30, 2023) on ESPN/ESPN+, featuring eight Lightweights and eight Bantamweights hoping to secure an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) roster spot. As coaches, Chandler and McGregor go toe-to-toe before squaring off inside the Octagon at a date yet to be determined.
The pairing has several notable names within the combat sports world buzzing. In particular, Eddie Alvarez — an old rival of both men — recommends that Chandler fight a bit smarter than in his five UFC bouts thus far.
“Mike Chandler is a hell of an athlete,” Alvarez told ESPN (h/t MMA Junkie). “I just think stylistically, the way he’s been fighting and the strategy he’s been going about fighting isn’t the way to get it done against Conor McGregor. I would implore him if I was his coach to change his style, to go for single legs, to go for shots, and force Conor to wrestle early.
“You have to force him to wrestle early so he don’t have the powerful tools that he’s able to take advantage of [against] all these other guys — quick feet, good range, great striking,” he continued. “You take that away when you wrestle him early. Wrestle him early enough and tire his shoulders down, tire his legs down, slow him down, and he’s half the striker that he can be when he’s fully energized.”
Chandler and Alvarez went to war on two occasions when under the Bellator banner in 2011 and 2013, providing all-time great fights. The first encounter between the two is largely considered the better of the bouts and was Chandler’s true coming out party in upset fashion. Defeating Alvarez via a fourth round rear-naked choke submission, Chandler capped off a successful run through the Bellator Lightweight tournament in what was just his ninth fight. The loss was Alvarez’s first in the promotion before eventually getting redemption by split decision and heading off to UFC.
At his heights in UFC, Alvarez claimed UFC gold and ultimately dropped it to a prime McGregor via second round technical knockout (punches) in the promotion’s first New York event at the world-famous Madison Square Garden. “The Notorious” hasn’t fought since breaking his leg in a trilogy loss to Dustin Poirier in July 2021 (watch highlights), making the fight all the more intriguing.
“Hell of a fight and a lot of questions would be answered with Conor’s time off,” Alvarez said. “Conor, of course, is not going to be the same Conor that he was back during his Jose Aldo, Nate Diaz, myself when he was fighting them, you know. He was quite active.
“He was fighting three and four times a year,” he added. “So we wouldn’t expect the same exact guy who was excited about winning world titles, but will we see that resurgence of energy, enjoyment and excitement and gratitude toward the game of MMA? And I feel like we will.”
For more TUF 31-related news and notes on the upcoming season click here.