Michael Chandler would like to see Islam Makhachev defend UFC’s lightweight title, before any superfights.
All signs point to Makhachev facing Alexander Volkanovski, the featherweight champion at UFC 284, next February. This mega fightup would be a matchup between two top Pound-for–Pound fighters and Makhachev’s title defense. With a dominating submission win over Charles Oliveira in UFC last October, the Russian star won the belt.
Chandler spoke with the media to discuss Makhachev’s plans, and whether he could match up against Dustin Poirier at UFC 281 Saturday.
“I think if there’s a guy out there who deserves to move up I think it is Alex Volkanovski,” Chandler said. “Obviously, the selfish part of me says I don’t want that to happen. It makes perfect sense, both from a promoter and UFC perspective. The No. 1 pound-for-pound guy in the world versus the No. 3 pound-for-pound guy in the world, but I also think that Islam has proved himself to be our champion and is our champion and we have to accept that and I think he’s a phenomenal talent.
” I also believe he should have his title defense against another lightweight. Before they talk about superfights, he needs to be able to defeat another lightweight. While I won’t claim that Volkanovski is wrong or a bad decision by the UFC, it’s clear that when they handle business Saturday night, they will want to see American wrestling against Dagestani Sambo and Dagestani grappling. This is what I want to see .”
Chandler, a three-time Bellator champion, has seen mixed results since making his UFC debut in January 2021 as he has gone toe-to-toe with only ranked opponents. In his UFC debut, he defeated Dan Hooker by TKO in the first round. He then lost back-to-back bouts to Justin Gaethje and Oliveira. He brought his UFC record to 2-2 with a Knockout of the Year front-runner finish of Tony Ferguson this past May.
Not only does Chandler think his exciting fighting style puts him at the front of any contender discussion, he also sees himself as having the ideal style to halt Makhachev’s 11-fight win streak.
“I honestly think my wrestling will stop his attacks,” Chandler said. “I think I can take him down. He can’t match me in grappling. I believe I can also beat him in striking. I feel I have more power and speed, as well as better hands. That’s me speaking confidently, obviously, a ton of respect for him. It’s a fascinating matchup, I think. I am the best lightweight wrestler. My credentials speak for themselves, being a Division-I All-American is kind of the epitome of wrestling accomplishment. I believe I match up very well.
“I think I beat him, but that’s what we all say. Charles stated that, and I also said the same about Charles. So hopefully we see that fight early 2023.”
First, Chandler has to get past Poirier in a bout that many expect to steal the show. In a brutal brawl, Chandler and Gaethje fought at Madison Square Garden’s UFC 268 in November.
Poirier currently holds the No. 3 spot at lightweight in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings with Chandler three spots behind him, so Chandler is confident that a win over Poirier lines him up for another massive opportunity next.
“Ultimately, I just need to put myself into a position where I need to win and no matter what it’s exciting,” Chandler said. In my whole career I have never had to endure a dull fight. It’s not something I say to impress anyone or gloat about. 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 him and I felt like I was doing something wrong if I wasn’t pressing the action. It’s been a great thing. I’ve found myself in some interesting positions, but this is the fight.
“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 kind of leave it up to chance. I’m definitely a veteran now, my fifth fight in the UFC, things have calmed down a little bit, I’m seeing things more clearly as well. This is a phenomenal opportunity and I think this puts me in line for the title or another huge fight by knocking off Dustin.”