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Michael Chandler: A UFC Success Story

One of the major talking points to emerge from UFC 274’s explosive night of fights - or at least its explosive night of lightweight showcases - was the standout performance of Michael Chandler.

And one of the major narratives to come out of all of this, is the idea that Chandler has been one of the greatest UFC signings of the era - a capture by Dana White and his team that is paying off in more ways than we ever would have guessed.

But to understand and fully appreciate the impact Chandler has had - it’s necessary to really take a moment to see where he was when he left Bellator.

For years, Chandler had been quite well known - seen by many as one of the finest fighters to have never touched down in the UFC octagon.

An Impressive Résumé

Of course his pair of lightweight clashes with Eddie Alvarez are nothing short of legendary within the Bellator canon - but for most, and I think it was a warranted notion - Chandler had kind of shown us who he was by the time his three-time Bellator lightweight champion run had come to its end.

And maybe it was age, maybe it was that first-round KO loss to Patricio Pitbull - maybe it was that 688 day stretch that contained three straight losses - maybe these things contributed to us thinking that Chandler had shown us his hand.

Back when I worked in the MMA media - I had the chance to interview Chandler prior to his rematch with Brent Primus - who had stolen away his lightweight title after a well-placed calf-kick caused his ankle to give out beneath him.

And during our chat, and it was a really interesting one that I hold among the most enjoyable interviews I’ve done - Chandler explained how he saw the defining period of his career as the 688 day stretch that he went winless - where two losses to Will Brooks and a defeat to Eddie Alvarez saw him spend close to two years without getting his hand raised.

He even told me that he wanted to one day name his autobiography 688 days - because of how much that struggle meant to him - how important it was for him to overcome that slump.

He also told yours truly that I could have a copy of that very same book whenever he gets around to writing it - so Mr Chandler I await that day with great excitement.

But it’s a real testament to the character of Michael Chandler that he did in fact manage to fight his way right into the win column once again - going 3 and 0 with all finishes to recapture his lightweight crown.

And it’s not like expectations were dampened by a terrible decline prior to him signing with the UFC.

Sure he had his bell rung pretty badly by the promotional legend Patricio Pitbull - but by the time the UFC came a’knocking, he had scored back to back KO victories.

A Late Bloom

But he was 34 - pushing 35 - in a division that really tends to move quickly.

So when he signed for the UFC - in my own head I saw it as something of a victory lap for a very strong career - a chance for Chandler to show something of him to the global stage.

What I did not anticipate was that Michael Chandler would come into the UFC - demand our attention, and become an undeniable fan favourite with some real high level viability in the process.

And look, it hasn’t been the perfect run - but there have been enough big moments, enough real moments of danger for his opponents that have seen many doubters start to really validate Michael Chandler.

It isn’t just the action inside the cage either. To those were unsure of what to expect from Chandler when he first took to the mic - there were some who saw his shtick as somewhat cringy or corny.

But as time has gone on - once people started to understand that Michael Chandler is that dude - is that hard-working, mentally bulletproof entertainer who has committed to stepping his game up for his debut on the global stage, you could just see people start to really respect him a lot more.

We don’t love fighters for their ability to win or avoid loss - maybe sometimes - but for most fans, what we really value - once technical ability or tactical astuteness are pushed to one side - is that drive to really back your words up, to really convey a certain energy in the cage to the point where nothing else really matters.

Sports Entertainment

MMA is showbusiness and four fights into his UFC account - Michael Chandler has shown us that he is willing to put on the table for us, and in fairness, it’s not just for us - he seems to genuinely want to inhabit a certain space in the MMA world - he is striving for that Gaethje thing - where that love of combat and desire to bring about chaos means a lot more to you than other external factors.

In that cage, only Michael Chandler knows how he feels - but there is a certain feeling I get off of him - that he is as driven to entertain as he says he is.

And it’s not just a case of putting your head down and throwing bombs - this guy is just about as eye-catching a showman as I’ve seen in the octagon.

Though I’ve always been a Chandler fan - I did not expect him to make his time in the UFC count like this.

Must-See TV

That 2 and 2 record may not look like much - but just looked at those losses - the instant classic war with Justin Gaethje, that explosive and truly shocking back and forth with Charles Oliveira.

Look, he didn’t win UFC gold - instead losing out by way of TKO to the consensus greatest lightweight on the planet - but he rebounded, once again in defeat - to Justin Gaethje - in a fight that you could barely describe him as a loser in.

Simply put, I think the UFC run of Michael Chandler has been a resounding success.

It’s not just that people are really clamouring to see this guy compete - but as far Chandler goes, his own transformation into the UFC superstar we see today has been awesome to behold.

He was never a boring fighter - but upon reaching the end of his Bellator contract - he decided to really turn all of his dials up to 10 - and that for me, given all of the ups and downs he has endured, makes his transition to these higher profile fights, these bigger paydays, and the unquestionably more electric results, that bit more impressive.

I think he deserves that Conor McGregor fight - and while I don’t think it’s the right move at this exact point in time, if he does get in there with the Notorious in the future - it will be the perfect reward for a long career of excellence.

Either way, I’m just excited to see where this path takes Michael Chandler next!