While he didn’t get the late notice call that he was on hand for, last weekend’s UFC 254 main event was about the best-case scenario for Michael Chandler.
With the UFC lightweight title soon to be vacant following the announcement of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement from mixed martial arts as well as Gaethje taking a loss against him, that leaves a shrinking list of contenders for the UFC’s next 155-pounds champion. Gaethje’s status as the main event back-up fighter suggests that UFC matchmakers are considering him in or around the title picture, but before any decisions are made in that regard Chandler says that he wants his own shot at Gaethje to show both the UFC and their fans exactly what he is capable of.
“There’s a lot of different options right now,” Chandler told The Schmo. “I think with the way the landscape looked – you had Gaethje and Khabib with Khabib as the lightweight champion after tonight – I was thinking Tony Ferguson. But now you’ve got Jon Anik and Justin Gaethje talking after the fight. Gaethje is a gamer. Justin Gaethje is one of the greatest competitors that we will ever get to see grace the octagon . . . (and) he said he’s ready in six to eight weeks, he’s ready to fight again.
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“He didn’t take that much damage in this fight which is great. I’m ready in six to eight weeks, he’s ready in six to eight weeks, there’s a Tony Ferguson fight, there is The Ultimate Fighter coming up, I know that’s gonna be a big debut for ESPN. Culminating in a lightweight title shot seems like nonstop action for ESPN so I would love to be a part of that as well. So we’ll see what happens.”
Despite his defeat last weekend, Gaethje signalled that he would be ready to go again in around six to eight weeks and even called for a lightweight title bout against Conor McGregor, but with the Dubliner heavily linked to a fight with Dustin Poirier in the new year, that leaves Chandler, Gaethje and Tony Ferguson as the presumed next top contenders, with the likes of Dan Hooker and Charlies Oliveira following close behind.
But in a perfect world, Chandler says he wants Gaethje.
“At this point, with the way everything changed tonight, I think a fight with Justin Gaethje has always excited me more than anybody in the entire division,” Chandler said. “More than Conor or Khabib, even though the mystique of beating Khabib and taking his 0 is something special, or fighting Conor on the highest grossing card of the year and making the most money, the red panty night as he likes to call it.
“Those are all wonderful but when it comes to just straight competitor versus competitor, hand to hand combat, mano a mano, small-town blue-collar American wrestler versus small-town American blue-collar wrestler, that’s me and Justin Gaethje stepping into the cage against each other, so that’s exciting to me.”