Chandler Claims Every Top-Ranked Lightweight Turned Him Down

UFC 254: Previews
Photo by Juan Cardenas/Zuffa LLC

Michael Chandler will finally make his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut next weekend at UFC 257 live on ESPN+ PPV from “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi. Chandler will be matched up against lightweight contender Dan Hooker and serve as the co-main event.

Chandler, who signed with the promotion back in September and served as a backup for Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, was hoping to land a higher-ranked opponent for his first trip to the Octagon. The former Bellator MMA lightweight champion was briefly linked to a showdown with UFC veteran Tony Ferguson, but that matchup fizzled out fairly quickly and Chandler will now make his debut four months after finalizing his UFC contract.

“Obviously I wanted to fight, two, three, four, or five before I fought number six,” Chandler told TSN. “But, beggars can’t be choosers, Dan Hooker was the guy who said yes when everyone else said no. Here we go, January 23 we get a great opportunity, I’m excited about it.”

Chandler, 34, is widely regarded as one of the best fighters in Bellator history and easily one of the most accomplished lightweights in the sport outside of UFC over the past decade. But even though he was hoping to land a fight with a top five opponent in the UFC’s stacked lightweight division a bout with Hooker isn’t all that bad. Hooker is coming off a Fight of the Night performance opposite Dustin Poirier and is one of the toughest guys at 155 pounds. A win over “Hangman” will put Chandler exactly where he needs to be for 2021.

“Every single one of them in the top-five, besides Conor. They all, and rightfully so. These guys have cut their teeth in this organization,” Chandler added. “These guys, everybody in the top-five have fought in the UFC’s lightweight division for five to ten years, these guys have put their time in, their blood, sweat, and tears. I realize I was an outsider, a newcomer, a darkhorse. I realize nobody wanted to really be the first guy who stepped into that Octagon with me, I completely get it.

“Dan Hooker was the guy who said yes and every other one of them said no for their own personal reasons,” Chandler said. “The good thing is I have a fight lined up, we have a contract signed. The biggest card of the year, the co-main event of UFC 257 isn’t a bad way to introduce yourself to the UFC fans.”

Chandler isn’t pumping up his debut here. A co-main event slot on a PPV card led by Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 2 is a massive way to start his UFC career. That PPV should clear 1,000,000 buys easily and give Chandler the attention he needs to break through as a legit title contender in 2021.

For more UFC 257 fight card news click here.

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