Michael Chandler has seen nothing but massive struggles since joining the UFC roster, but he’s still looking for an opportunity to take on the greatest superstar of them all.
Just weeks away from making his fourth appearance in the octagon with a matchup against Tony Ferguson at UFC 274, the former Bellator lightweight champion hasn’t forgotten his desire to eventually face Conor McGregor.
Before booking the Ferguson fight, Chandler believed he was the right candidate to welcome McGregor back after the devastating fracture of his leg in his last fight against Dustin Poirier in July 2021. While Chandler turns his full attention to Ferguson on May 7, he’s still keeping an eye on McGregor and the timing of his eventual return later this year.
“I just want Conor to fight for the greatness of the moment,” Chandler told MMA Fighting. “To step into that octagon and do something really monumental and fight him in front of all the eyeballs of mixed martial arts. I mean eyeballs all over the world. You don’t get a bigger platform than fighting Conor McGregor.
“I’d love to do that, if of course I don’t get the title shot. But July [or] August would be great for me. I’m going to go out in May and beat Tony, just have a bit of time to recover and then go right back in for a July [or] August fight. The timing is perfect.”
During McGregor’s recovery, the Irishman has announced a comeback in several weight classes, including his recent statement that he is seeking a third UFC title in hopes of challenging reigning welterweight king Kamaru Usman.
It seems highly unlikely that the wish will come true as Usman is already expected to face Leon Edwards in his next title defense and undefeated contender Khamzat Chimaev is also in the wings.
A trilogy against Nate Diaz could also be tempting, but with just one fight remaining on his current contract, the UFC wasn’t too receptive to booking the Stockton, California native in high-profile matchups like he would get with McGregor.
Because of that, Chandler feels he’s just the kind of challenge McGregor needs after injury while also trying to recover from back-to-back losses.
“I think I’m a great guy for Conor,” Chandler said. “If he comes back and doesn’t get that title shot, he’s going to have to go through someone to get that title shot. I think I’m kind of the perfect guy, around 5th place. If he comes in and beats me, he definitely gets the title shot. We will see.
“This is fight business and it’s business for a reason. We’ll see the chips fall. All I know is May 7th, I’m going to go out there and do a great job and Conor knows I’d love to fight him. He mentioned that he would also like to fight me down the line, so we’ll see what happens.
Outside of the fight itself, Chandler also understands that facing McGregor comes with a whole host of other potential problems, because every time The Notorious takes on the whole world seems to be watching.
What’s more, McGregor is known for his toxic trash talk, which has arguably crossed the line on occasion, particularly when he attacked the families of former opponents Poirier and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Chandler has never really felt the need to engage in verbal warfare with his opponents, but he’s not afraid to fight with McGregor — or anyone else — on the mic when the need arises. But Chandler also doesn’t expect McGregor to execute low-blows on him if the two get booked, because ultimately he views the matchup as one that would sell itself without the need for personal attacks to pique viewer interest.
“Obviously that’s one of the things you think about when you think of Conor,” Chandler said. “I think that’s why the guys lost to Conor, not just because of Conor’s skill, but because of the size of the moment, the preparation, the fight week, the trash talk, all the energy you put into it outside of the fight conor. My gut says I don’t think Conor will stoop that low with me.
“I think what happens is that as you stack insults and personal insults and personal digs, it just gets deeper and deeper and deeper. I will obviously never speak to a fighter personally. I wouldn’t see Conor taking this too far. I think Conor would spoil speeches and build up a fight, overdo the fight, of course try to get into my head, but I’m very confident that I can withstand it. Don’t just withstand it, fire back intelligently.”
Throughout his rise to stardom, McGregor was relentless with his verbal attacks on opponents, but was also specific about the type of insults he would use to stalk someone.
Only recently has he begun to include wives, children and the families of the fighters he is preparing for. Even Chandler has noticed the change in McGregor’s demeanor, but he still won’t lose sleep over what’s said before a fight.
“One of the things we loved about Conor McGregor was that his trash talk wasn’t just personal insults,” Chandler said. “It was a calculated, intelligent, exploratory type of thing. You could tell the man would do his research if he was about to attack someone. Whether it was attacking their fighting style, attacking their positive or negative traits and honestly it was nice to see.
“I would be willing to do that. I consider myself a guy who would be perfectly fine engaging in a verbal jiu-jitsu match with Conor McGregor, a battle of the wits if you will, and pretty much keep it PG-13 if not a little worse than that, but that’s it.”