Former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler has explained why he finds a potential match-up with Justin Gaethje more exciting than the prospect of facing 155lb king Khabib Nurmagomedov or UFC superstar Conor McGregor.

‘The Eagle’ announced he will be retiring from the sport after stretching his perfect record to 29-0 at UFC 254 this past weekend. For Chandler and the rest of the division that allows for some huge opportunities in late 2020 and the first few months of 2021.

“There’s a lot of different options right now,” Chandler told The Schmo. “I think with the way the landscape looked – you had Gaethje and Khabib with Khabib as the lightweight champion after tonight – I was thinking Tony Ferguson. But now you’ve got Jon Anik and Justin Gaethje talking after the fight. Gaethje is a gamer. Justin Gaethje is one of the greatest competitors that we will ever get to see grace the octagon . . . (and) he said he’s ready in six to eight weeks, he’s ready to fight again. He didn’t take that much damage in this fight which is great. I’m ready in six to eight weeks, he’s ready in six to eight weeks, there’s a Tony Ferguson fight, there is The Ultimate Fighter coming up, I know that’s gonna be a big debut for ESPN. Culminating in a lightweight title shot seems like nonstop action for ESPN so I would love to be a part of that as well. So we’ll see what happens.”

Immediately after his loss, Gaethje expressed his wish to turn around quickly and even called out McGregor in the process. Chandler liked hearing that from ‘The Highlight’ who has always been the most appealing match-up to him.

“At this point, with the way everything changed tonight, I think a fight with Justin Gaethje has always excited me more than anybody in the entire division,” Chandler said. “More than Conor or Khabib, even though the mystique of beating Khabib and taking his 0 is something special, or fighting Conor on the highest grossing card of the year and making the most money, the red panty night as he likes to call it. Those are all wonderful but when it comes to just straight competitor versus competitor, hand to hand combat, mano a mano, small-town blue-collar American wrestler versus small-town American blue-collar wrestler, that’s me and Justin Gaethje stepping into the cage against each other, so that’s exciting to me.” (Transcribed by MMA Fighting)

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A lifelong fight fan from Liverpool, England who has been covering mixed martial arts (MMA) and boxing for several years. Follow @JordanEllisUK on Twitter for all the latest fight news, views, interviews and live event coverage.