On October 24, 2020, Khabib Nurmagomedov strangled Justin Gagee in the second round, defended his UFC champion title for the third time and announced his retirement. Due to the density of high-profile events that evening, many forgot that at UFC 254, Khabib could have a fight with a completely different person. Michael Chandler flew to Fight Island in October specifically to make weight by the 24th and thus become an insurer for the Nurmagomedov-Gaydzhi fight.
Then the services of the ex-Bellator champion were not needed, and now Chandler is preparing for his debut at UFC 257, where he will have to fight with Dan Hooker. We tell the story of a brilliant American fighter.
Michael Chandler was born on April 24, 1986 in High Ridge, Missouri. He grew up in a large family, for his parents Michael Sr. and Betty Chandler, he became the second of four children. Michael Jr. from childhood was accustomed to discipline and maximalism, so that the first successes came to him at school, where he was actively involved in American football and freestyle wrestling.
The guy showed himself vigorously in both disciplines, at some point his portrait even appeared on the honor board of High Ridge High School. Among Chandler’s early successes, it is worth noting second place in the Missouri State Wrestling Championship, where Michael was awarded the MVP (Most Valuable Player) title.
Before entering college, Michael had to choose between two sports that he had been actively mastering in recent years, and then the guy decided to end up with football. The choice turned out to be the right one – later Chandler continued to develop as a wrestler, moving on to study at the University of Missouri. There, Michael reached the elite level, reaching All-American status in the NCAA First Division in 2009, and Chandler was also the captain of his university’s wrestling team.
In 2014, Michael Chandler started his own family. A girl named Bree Willett became his wife. Three years after the wedding, the couple had a long-awaited child, and this is not an ordinary story.
According to Chandler, from the beginning of their life together, he and his wife dreamed of taking an adopted child, and the initiative in this matter came from Bree. As a teenager, the girl worked as a volunteer in a program to help children who lost their parents and children from disadvantaged families. That experience made a strong impression on Bree, and subsequently she set herself the goal of adopting a foster baby as soon as she had a family.
The adoption process was not easy and took the Chandlers several years. But on October 28, 2018, such a touching post appeared on Michael’s Instagram.
“Giant announcement! We have thought and prayed about this for the past five years, and now we are delighted to announce that we have adopted our first son. We present to you our pride and our joy – Hep Whitaker Chandler. «
The couple is not going to stop at the adoption of one boy. In one of the old interviews, Chandler admitted that he and his wife had plans to have their own children.
For a long time, Chandler was considered one of the strongest lightweights outside the UFC. For the past 10 years, Michael has played at Bellator, where he fought 23 times and became the champion three times. The start turned out to be promising: 9 wins in a row, success in the grand prix and the title won in a meat grinder with Eddie Alvarez.
But then there was a black streak, during which Michael lost three times in a row, and also lost his belt. Returning in June 2015, he beat two opponents over the next five months and earned the right to fight for the title again. The championship fight with Patrick Freire was marked for Chandler by one of the most powerful victories in his career: at around 2:14 of the first round, Michael gave his Instagram an awesome highlight.
Then there was a successful defense against ex-UFC champion Benson Henderson, and after her, Chandler’s rival was Brent Primus, with whom the fight was staged in June 2017. At that moment there was already a feeling that Michael had outgrown Bellator, but the champion unexpectedly lost his belt for the second time. It should be noted that Primus was lucky in that fight: Chandler twisted his leg badly at the beginning, and his ankle injury forced the referee to stop the fight in the first round.
Chandler spent a year and a half on the third campaign for the title and again took Bellator gold at the end of 2018. By that time, Nurmagomedov had taken the UFC belt and dealt with Conor McGregor in the « fight of the century. » At the same time, the Russian became the main target of all status fighters in his weight division. And one of those who called Khabib the most impudent and active was Michael Chandler:
“How would I fight against Khabib? Like Al Iaquinta, only still would include his wrestling, striking and defense from the passages. I’ll stop his takedowns, knock him down and rock him like Michael Johnson. The picture on how to defeat Khabib has already been drawn several times. I will beat Khabib 10 times out of 10. «
Then it was difficult to take this statement seriously – the opposition in Bellator is at a level lower than in the UFC, but even inside league 2, Chandler had 4 defeats. And soon a fifth was added to them. In May 2019, Michael came out to defend the belt against featherweight champion Patricio Freire, Patrica’s brother. Chandler was a big favorite, but unexpectedly lost by knockout within a minute from the start of the fight. To get to today’s positions, he had to win two more victories. At the end of 2019, he knocked out Sydney Outlaw, and in August, Ben Henderson was hurt again by Michael.
Michael Chandler is an athlete of the highest caliber. His physical form more than once led MMA fans to the idea that Michael had developed his body not without the help of illegal drugs. In his new job, Michael will have to deal with the USADA doping control program for the first time, and until the officers of the anti-doping agency find something to complain about, such Chandler’s recordings from training really look impressive.
Its versatility is also worth noting. On account of Chandler 9 victories by knockout and it is important that Michael knows how to knock out with one blow. At the same time, he has complete order on earth. We have already mentioned that Chandler had an excellent wrestling career as a student. Moving to MMA in 2009, Michael quickly acquired the necessary skills to work in a stance, and over time, he completely fell in love with ending fights by « punching ». At the same time, the wrestling base continued to bail out the American: he has a record number of victories in the Bellator lightweight division (6).
On the one hand, everything should work out well. Chandler’s rival Dan Hooker is a tall striker who used to be a featherweight champion. In style, it suits Chandler well for a successful debut. On the other hand, Hooker is the current top lightweight champion of the UFC, which means that formally, there have never been any rivals of this level in the career of the ex-Bellator champion. Yes, Chandler is well trained, versatile and has trained with UFC champions for years. But in his career, there were times when he lost to those who, it seemed, should have beaten even at Bellator.
One way or another, Chandler today is interesting not only as an eminent newcomer, on whom the UFC is making a big bet. Michael, along with his rival Hooker, as well as along with McGregor and Poirier, are among the chosen ones who, with their performance, can force Khabib Nurmagomedov to return to the UFC for another fight.