Michael Chandler all the time believed he’d discover himself preventing for the UFC light-weight title sometime. He simply didn’t suppose it could come so quickly after his debut with the promotion initially of the yr.
“I did not, absolutely not,” Chandler instructed The Post over the telephone not too long ago.
Nonetheless, that’s the enviable scenario by which Chandler (22-5, 17 finishes) finds himself, making ready to face Charles Oliveira to determine who will turn into the subsequent champ at 155 kilos following the retirement of former unbeaten title holder Khabib Nurmagomedov final October. The two will vie for the vacant crown within the pay-per-view headliner of UFC 262 on Saturday at Toyota Center in Houston.
Making such a huge impact in his UFC debut definitely performed a component in getting so far, even in one of the top-heavy weight lessons within the sport. Back on Jan. 24, Chandler introduced his presence to those that weren’t aware of the previous Bellator light-weight champion with an emphatic TKO of Dan Hooker precisely midway by means of the primary spherical. It was Chandler’s thirteenth first-round victory of his profession. Doing so on the pay-per-view co-main occasion instantly previous a Conor McGregor battle ensured most publicity, too.
Perhaps the largest motive Chandler is right here this weekend is a selection made by the person who knocked out McGregor that night in Abu Dhabi: Dustin Poirier. Despite sitting atop the UFC’s promotional rankings in addition to impartial lists all through MMA media, Poirier handed on a title battle and selected a profitable rubber-match with McGregor in July to settle their best-of-three.
“I am just the benefactor of a certain set of circumstances, which is Khabib retiring, and Poirier and Conor both tied up with the trilogy,” Chandler mentioned.
“There’s no doubt Dustin Poirier is the No. 1 guy in the world as we speak right now,” Chandler mentioned, earlier than including a caveat. “He deserves that title shot, but he passed up on the title shot to fight the Conor fight. That’s his decision to make, so now everyone turns their eyeballs to me and Charles Oliveira.”
If it seems like Chandler, 35, maybe views Poirier as the person to beat at 155 kilos even after a non-lineal champion is said on Saturday, overlook it. As far as he’s involved, “whoever holds the title is the champion.”
“I believe I was a top guy coming into the organization [last September],’” Chandler mentioned. “That was confirmed by my efficiency towards Dan Hooker, who was high 5. Poirier couldn’t end him in 25 minutes [last June]. Paul Felder couldn’t end him in 25 minutes [last February]. I’m the one man in his profession to complete him with strikes to the top. So my ability set and my résumé outdoors the UFC and now right here within the UFC speaks for itself.
“I will be the No. 1 guy in the world. I will be the champion. And if Poirier can get past Conor, then I fight Poirier, and I beat him.”
While few would second-guess Poirier’s resolution to chase a 3rd battle towards McGregor, which figures to supply by far the largest monetary upside of Poirier’s profession, Chandler factors out the potential draw back.
“If Poirier loses to Conor, Poirier made a bad decision by not fighting me for the title in May,” Chandler mentioned. “So there’s numerous stress on him to beat Conor since you don’t need to move up a UFC title shot. At this level, he has by no means been a champion. He was an interim champion. So I feel that’s one thing that will hang-out him for years to come back.
“But that was a decision that he made, and I think a lot of people would have made that decision,” Chandler continues, hanging a extra understanding tone. “If you get the opportunity to fight Conor, you fight Conor. Whoever wins that fight July 10 is most likely gonna be my first title defense sometime before the end of the year.”
Clearly, Chandler already envisions himself rising from Houston with UFC gold slung over his shoulder. But he is aware of he’s bought a significant problem in entrance of him in Oliveira (30-8, 27 finishes), who like Chandler has been preventing for greater than a decade in main MMA promotions. The Brazilian debuted within the UFC at 20 years outdated in 2010, splitting his profession between 145 and 155 kilos within the years since. Although he holds the UFC document for wins by submission (14), he suffered by means of down intervals from 2010 by means of 2013 (2-4, 1 no contest) and 2015-2017 (2-4).
But Olivieira, 31, has discovered new life since a TKO loss to Felder on the finish of 2017. He’s gained eight in a row, with seven victories coming inside the space and a dominant resolution over former interim champ Tony Ferguson final December. He even picked up a pair of (T)KO victories in 2019, his first since his pre-UFC days.
Chandler made certain to “commend” Oliveira on incomes his technique to the title in spite of everything his ups and downs, particularly as somebody aware of going by means of a tough stretch within the cage.
(*1*) mentioned Chandler, who weathered a three-fight dropping streak between 2013 and 2014. “You just still have to be standing there when it does.”