March 27, 2023
Michael Chandler: Islam Makhachev has to defend the title against the Lightweight Division first

Michael Chandler: Islam Makhachev has to defend the title against the Lightweight Division first

Michael Chandler wants Islam Makhachev to defend the UFC lightweight title before he has any superfights.

All signs point to Makhachev taking on featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski next February at UFC 284, a mega duel that would serve as the pairing between two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and Makhachev’s first title defense . The Russian star claimed the belt with a dominant submission win over Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 last October.

Ahead of his fight with Dustin Poirier at UFC 281 on Saturday, Chandler spoke to the media about Makhachev’s plans and how he might fit in with him.

“I think if there’s one guy out there that deserves to rise up, I think it’s Alex Volkanovski,” Chandler said. “Obviously the selfish part of me says I don’t want this. I understand that from the promoter’s perspective, from the UFC’s perspective, it makes a lot of sense. You have the world’s #1 pound-for-pound guy versus the world’s #3 pound-for-pound guy, but I also think Islam has proven to be our champion and is our champion and We have to accept that and I think he’s a phenomenal talent.

“I also think he needs to have his first title defense against a lightweight. He needs to get through another lightweight before they start talking about superfights. Again, I’m not saying this to say that the UFC is making a bad decision or the wrong decision in making this decision to step up Volkanovski, but I think if I get the job done on Saturday night it will be undeniable Be that they do You will want to see good, old fashioned, passionate and American wrestling vs. Dagestani Sambo and Dagestani Grappling. I hope we get to see that.”

Chandler, a three-time Bellator champion, has had mixed results since making his UFC debut in January 2021, going toe-to-toe with only ranked opponents. In his UFC debut, he scored a first-round TKO over Dan Hooker and then lost back-to-back fights to Oliveira and Justin Gaethje. He improved his UFC record to 2-2 with a Knockout of the Year leader finish from Tony Ferguson last May.

Not only does Chandler believe his exciting fighting style puts him at the forefront of any competitor discussion, he sees himself as the ideal style to break Makhachev’s 11-fight winning streak.

“I really believe my wrestling will stop his attacks,” Chandler said. “I think I can take care of him. I think I can grapple with him and I think I have more power in the batting department, I’m faster and I have better hands. I say that confidently, obviously, a lot of respect for him. But I think it’s the most intriguing matchup in the lightweight division. There’s no better wrestler on the Lightweight roster than me. My credentials speak for themselves, being a Division I All-American is the pinnacle of wrestling achievement. So I think I fit together very well.

“I think I hit him, but that’s what we all say. That’s what Charles said, that’s what I said about Charles. Hopefully we see that fight in early 2023.”

First, Chandler must get past Poirier in a fight many expect to steal the show. Chandler fought at UFC 268 last November at Madison Square Garden and went through three incredible rounds with Gaethje in one of the most brutal brawls in recent memory.

Poirier currently sits third in the lightweight division in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings with Chandler three spots behind him, so Chandler is confident a win over Poirier will give him another big opportunity next.

“Ultimately I just have to put myself in a position where I have to win and no matter what’s exciting,” Chandler said. “I’ve never had a boring fight, won, lost or drawn, in my entire career. And I’m not saying this to hurt or impress anyone, it’s just my nature. That’s how I wrestled. As soon as that whistle blew, I wanted to get my hands on my opponent, I wanted to put pressure on them, and I felt like I was doing something wrong if I didn’t press. So I think it’s a very, very good thing and has put me in a few positions here and there, but it’s the fighting game.

“You’re fighting the best guys in the world here in the UFC and at some point when you know you’ve prepared, when you know you’ve done everything right, all you can do is go out there and just leave it to chance. I’m definitely a veteran now, my fifth fight in the UFC, things have calmed down a bit, I see things more clearly too. This is a phenomenal opportunity and I think that puts me in line for the title or another big fight by taking out Dustin.”

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