Michael Chandler: “Islam Makhachev has to have his first title defense against a lightweight”

Michael Chandler
Mandatory Credit: Chris Unger - Zuffa LLC

Former multi-time Bellator lightweight champion and former UFC title challenger Michael Chandler has some choice words for UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, claiming he needs to fight someone in his division for his first title defense.

This topic of discussion came about considering the UFC is looking to match Makhachev up with UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 284 in Perth, Australia next February.

Michael Chandler was asked by an MMA Fighting representative what his thoughts on the potential match-up were:

“I think if there’s a guy out there who deserves to move up, I think it is Alex Volkanovski. Obviously, the selfish part of me says I don’t want that to happen, ya know.

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“I understand how it makes a ton of sense from a promoter standpoint, from the UFC standpoint; you’ve got 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. He is our champion and we have to accept that and I think he’s a phenomenal talent.”

“I also think he has to have his first title defense against a lightweight. He needs to get through another lightweight before they start talking about superfights.

“Once again, I don’t say that to say that the UFC is making a bad decision, or the wrong decision if they make that decision to let Volkanovski move up. But I think when I handle business on Saturday night I think it will be undeniable that they’re going to want to see good, ol’ fashioned, passion and American wrestling versus Dagestani Sambo, Dagestani grappling.

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“That’s what I hope we get to see.”

Michael Chandler believes he can be a bad match-up for the champion:

“Islam is who he said he was, for sure.” Chandler continued: “I honestly think my wrestling will stop his attacks. I think I can take him down. I think I can match him grappling for grappling. And I think in the striking department I’ve got more power, I’m faster, and I have better hands.

“That’s me speaking confidently, obviously, (I have) a ton of respect for him. But I do think it’s the most intriguing matchup in the lightweight division. There’s not a better wrestler on the lightweight roster than me. My credentials speak for themselves, being a Division-I All-American is kind of the epitome of wrestling accomplishment.

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“So I think I match up extremely well. I think I beat him, but that’s what we all say. That’s what Charles said, that’s what I said about Charles. So hopefully we see that fight early 2023.”

Michael Chandler faces former interim UFC lightweight champion Dustin Poirier this weekend at UFC 281, be sure to tune in!