Michael Chandler: From Wrestling Walk-on, Three Time Bellator Champion to UFC Lightweight Contender

Michael Chandler: From Wrestling Walk-on, Three Time Bellator Champion to UFC Lightweight Contender

By Dan McConnell

Michael Chandler may not have been that well-known by the masses until this past weekend’s UFC card on Fight Island. But he has been arguably one of Bellator’s greatest ever fighters from the promotions inception in 2010.

A college wrestling walk-on at the University of Missouri, began the athletic career of the current UFC lightweight. It has been a long road for the All-American, but he has finally got to the promised land and instantly proved why he is one of the best fighters in the world in his weight class.

Chandler, has said in the past that he wouldn’t have got into the sport of mixed martial arts, if he didn’t meet Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley, who need little introduction in the wrestling and MMA world for their renowned pedigree. 

The former Strikeforce and Bellator champion, proved why singing with the UFC was a long-time coming, after spending a decade with Scott Coker’s Bellator MMA.

A former three-time Bellator 155-pound champion, he has taken down the likes of Eddie Alvarez who he had that epic trilogy with. Patricky Freire one half of the ‘Pitbull’ brothers, and former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson on two occasions, including a first round stoppage in his final appearance for Bellator.

A shock defeat to Brent Primus in 2017 at Bellator’s historic card in Madison Square Garden, proved a bitter pill to swallow after a shock nerve injury to his foot ended the fight prematurely. Chandler got his revenge the following year, and despite a defeat to Patricio Freire, Chandler finished his Bellator run in some style.

The Nashville-native, looked as good as ever when finally making his UFC promotional debut, on the grandest stage of them all under the bright lights in Abu Dhabi.

Chandler knocked out the New Zealander Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker at the halfway point of the first round in a flawless performance, showing that he is a more than viable contender in his new promotional home.

Chandler 34, cut a WWW style promo after that fight, calling out the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor. In many ways, Chandler left a lasting impression at UFC 257.

His ‘Blessed’ tattoo on his shoulder, epitomises how he holds himself as a true martial artist and this was backed up throughout fight week.

What could be next on Chandler’s quest for a title shot?

Personally, I would book Chandler vs Charles Oliviera. Two exciting fighters who are rising stars in the 155-pound division, and have added a different element to the mix to an already stacked UFC lightweight division.

Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

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