Michael Chandler has won big on almost every level in combat sports. Making his jump to the UFC back in January 2021, Chandler solidified himself to a global audience he’s one of the most electrifying fighters in the lightweight division.
Following two disappointing losses to Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje, who fought in the UFC 274 main event on Saturday, Chandler went viral with his jaw-dropping knockout against Tony Ferguson. After a back-and-forth first round where both fighters trading haymakers, Chandler opened up the second period with one of the best knockouts of the year in UFC. Chandler hit Ferguson square on the chin with an authoritative front kick.
Chandler had the sold-out Footprint Center crowd buzzing after his stylish knockout, and he catpialized on the moment when commentator Joe Rogan handed over the microphone. Chandler not only called-out whoever won between Oliveira and Gaethje (Oliveira won by submission), but also the most famous fighter in UFC history. Chandler said if UFC President Dana White decides against putting him in the next lightweight title bout, he wants Conor McGregor upon his return from a gruesome leg injury suffered versus Dustin Poirier.
Another intriguing angle to Chandler’s call out of McGregor was the specific weight up a class at 170 pounds. Neither Chandler nor McGregor would have to undergo a significant weight cut to make this blockbuster fight happen down the road.
McGregor quickly responded on Twitter following the fight saying he could see Chandler in his future road map of fights, which at least keeps the option open for this to occur soon enough. Both fighters are around the same age (Chandler = 36, McGregor = 34), plus both provide the obvious box office appeal to make a super fight with similarly thrilling styles.
MORE FOR YOU
White mentioned in his post-show press conference that he was even surprised by the position Chandler has now put himself in to potentially be a top contender for McGregor’s next opponent.
“You guys for the last however many months want to talk to me about Conor, I would’ve never said Chandler in a million years,” White said. “And then tonight happened the way that it happened and Chandler says ‘Hey, Conor, let’s fight.’ And Conor is like ‘Hey, you know what, I actually would like to fight.’ I think it would be an exciting fight. So, by the time Conor is ready to actually compete, who knows what’s going to happen. Who knows what the landscape is going to be, but I promise you we’ll make a good one.”
If McGregor does soon return to the octagon, the earliest timeline looks to be late summer. More realistically, late 2022 feels like the target goal for McGregor and the UFC to find his next fight.
“Yeah, that’s a fun one, man,” White said of matching up Chandler and McGregor. “I mean, who the hell wouldn’t want to see that fight? That’s fun.”
Chandler was buzzing after his knockout over Ferguson, potentially vaulting him into a new tier within the lightweight division. If Chandler would have lost this bout, how knows what direction is next for him after three consecutive losses. Now, with Chandler bringing more fanfare to the octagon, he’s an ideal opponent to square off next with the transcendent Irish UFC icon.
“So, that fight with Conor, I’m obviously serious about it,” Chandler said after UFC 274. “You’re going to be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t think I’m one of the most exciting guys on the planet now. I think I’ve proven that numerous times now. Conor needs a big fight to put butts in seats, to sell pay per views. Yeah, I fight at 170 would be a lot better than a fight at 155.”
Chandler is right on the money with his assessment. It will be hard to deny Chandler this golden opportunity against McGregor, because he brings a decorated track record and a loyal fanbase to the table. The build-up between a Chandler vs. McGregor bout would be a monster moment for the UFC, and rightfully brings more worldwide attention upon the sport exploding in popularity.
“Definitely the Conor fight I would end the vacation,” Chandler said of taking time off for his next opponent, but changing his stance if it’s indeed McGregor. “You know, we’ll see what happens. When Conor comes back and he’s healthy, I’ll be there.”
Next on the list for Chandler feels like three realistic options. It’s either a Chandler vs. McGregor super fight, fighting for the lightweight title against Oliveira, or a thrilling rematch with Gaethje. Any of these scenarios would wet the appetite of UFC fans, but what makes the most sense from Chandler’s perspective?
Chandler said after UFC 274 he either wants to make weight for a title fight at 155 or not have to and leave the McGregor option on the table.
“Conor has earned the right to keep his options open.” Chandler said. “He’s a combat sports icon. He’s one of the biggest sports stars on the planet. And he deserves to be able to make his decisions when he wants to make his decisions. Do I think I’d be a great dance partner? Do I think I would be a formidable one that won’t just give him a challenge, but put butts in seats because people know I am electrifying when I step inside the octagon.”
Following Michael “Iron” Chandler’s successful fight in UFC 274, the roadmap to a rapid rise once more up the lightweight rankings feels more realistic than ever.