Get to know recent UFC signee Michael Chandler.
In September 2020, UFC president Dana White announced that the promotion had signed former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler to a multi-fight deal and that Chandler would serve as a back-up for both Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje, should either of them be forced to withdraw from their UFC 254 main event showdown. Chandler represents one of the biggest UFC free agent signings in recent memory.
Although he was long considered the face of Bellator and known as an elite lightweight amongst hardcore MMA fans, Chandler is a new face to many UFC fans. While Chandler may or may not make his first Octagon appearance at UFC 254, he’s likely to fight soon and likely to factor into the lightweight title picture.
Former Bellator champion Michael Chandler will serve as the main event back-up at UFC 254.
Chandler was one of Bellator’s first and most prominent homegrown stars. After a successful wrestling career at the University of Missouri (where he wrestled alongside fellow MMA standouts Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren), Chandler fought just two times before signing with Bellator in 2010. After reeling off three first-round stoppage victories, Chandler entered the Bellator lightweight tournament, which he would win, defeating Marcin Held, Lloyd Woodard, and Patricky Freire.
Following his tournament championship, Chandler defeated then-champion Eddie Alvarez to win the Bellator title in what is widely considered one of the best fights of all time. Just seven fights into his career, Chandler showed incredible mettle and skill to defeat the much more experienced Alvarez. With the win, Chandler had announced himself as not only an elite lightweight but also one of the sport’s most entertaining fighters.
Chandler would successfully defend his title two more times before losing it via split decision in another exciting fight with Alvarez. Chandler continued to struggle, dropping back-to-back fights against Will Brooks. However, Chandler quickly returned to his winning ways and recaptured the then-vacant Bellator lightweight title in 2016 with another victory over Freire.
Two fights later, Chandler again lost his title, this time via bizarre ankle injury against the unheralded Brent Primus. In 2018, Chandler won the lightweight belt for a third time, dominating Primus with ground control in a rematch. Chandler’s third title reign was short, though, losing his first defense by knockout against Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Freire. Chandler then left the promotion on the strength of consecutive wins over Sidney Outlaw and Benson Henderson.
In simple terms, Chandler is a classic wrestler-boxer style of fighter. But in reality, the Henri Hooft-trained fighter is an incredible athlete with devastating punching power and an offensive mindset. Chandler will lean on his wrestling and ground control when he feels necessary, but at his core, he is a knockout artist. It’s that offensive mindset and knockout power that had MMA fans worldwide clamoring to see him compete against the UFC’s top lightweights.
Chandler is an immediate threat to any top-10 lightweight in the UFC. With his wrestling, he’s a tough match-up for any fighter that relies on the takedown. And with his athleticism and knockout power, few fighters will be willing to exchange punches with him. Even if he doesn’t compete at UFC 254, Chandler is already angling for a big fight with former interim champion Tony Ferguson, and fans can expect to see him factor prominently into the lightweight title picture.