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Michael Chandler prepares to fight Dustin Poirier in a lightweight bout during the UFC 281 event at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Michael Chandler Never Wavered

UFC Lightweight Contender Michael Chandler Stayed The Course And Plans To Reap The Rewards With An Epic Victory Over Conor McGregor At UFC 303 On June 29.

While Michael Chandler hasn’t competed in the Octagon since November of 2022, the all-action lightweight contender has done just about everything else he could want to do.

Chandler became a familiar face as a guest fighter at UFC events, worked on other businesses, traveled the world, coached season 31 of The Ultimate Fighter, delivered a viral moment at WWE Monday Night RAW and, most importantly, spent true, quality time with his family.

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There’s no doubt that Chandler has missed fighting, and that being on the sidelines waiting for a bout to materialize with Conor McGregor has been difficult at times. But taking a break from the physical and mental exhaustion that comes with multiple fight camps and fights let Chandler simply live life.

Michael Chandler is seen with his wife Brie and son Hap during the UFC Fight Night event at Bridgestone Arena on August 05, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Michael Chandler is seen with his wife Brie and son Hap during the UFC Fight Night event at Bridgestone Arena on August 05, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

“I’m a guy that likes to stay busy, but it’s been one of the most fruitful times of my life. Honestly, I was just chasing happiness, joy, and spending time with my family,” Chandler told UFC.com. “Being able to step back to gain some clarity on where I stand and my passion for competition was amazing. It also allowed me to spend quality time with my wife and sons, more so than I probably have had their entire lives.”

In March of 2023, season 31 of TUF was filmed, with Chandler coaching opposite of McGregor.

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Team Chandler won nearly all the quarterfinal and semifinal bouts, but to Chandler, the biggest win was being around McGregor for an extended time and staying even keel. At some points in the show, McGregor showed Chandler respect, and in others he trash talked the Missouri native. Regardless of the situation, Chandler maintained his composure and feels he didn’t give McGregor any sort of mental edge over him.

“It was very interesting. What TUF really did for me, the best thing that it did for me, it wasn’t the trash talk, it was me standing confidently on my own two feet,” Chandler said. “I wasn’t scared or didn’t act like a tough guy. I did neither. I wasn’t shaken; I was copasetic. That gave me an edge.”

Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler face off during the filming of The Ultimate Fighter at UFC APEX on March 3, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler face off during the filming of The Ultimate Fighter at UFC APEX on March 3, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

After the show, Chandler waited to get an official date for a bout with McGregor, but the Irish megastar was busy filming his acting debut in the remake of Roadhouse. McGregor also flirted with the idea of fighting a different opponent than Chandler and threw consistent jabs out to Chandler on social media.

So, Chandler just waited and stayed patient. He blocked out the noise and waited for what he knew was coming his way.

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“I’m not supposed to be here. I'm a kid from a small town outside of St. Louis, Missouri,” Chandler said. “People were telling me things like, I’m wasting my prime. They were bringing up my age and saying Conor is never coming back. Or that I’m past my prime and the fight is never going to happen.

“All the pushback and the hate and people telling me that I was doing the wrong thing showed me that I was doing the right thing.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than this. People can say what they want about me waiting, but anyone on the roster - future, past, or present - knows that they would wait for this fight. I took this as an opportunity to follow the blueprint for how a man or woman stands on their own two feet. The world wants to put you in a box and it’s your job to jump out of the box and kick down those doors.”

Michael Chandler Talks Fighting Conor McGregor
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Michael Chandler Talks Fighting Conor McGregor
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After much debate, and over a full year later, UFC announced that McGregor and Chandler would headline UFC 303 on June 29 in Las Vegas.

The truth is that Chandler didn’t care about what date, what weight, or what city the bout with McGregor happened at. It only mattered that he would finally get to step into the Octagon with McGregor and follow through with what he said when he hopped on the microphone after knocking out Tony Ferguson.

MORE UFC 302: Dustin Poirier's Top Finishes | Islam Makhachev UFC Connected

Chandler cut one of the greatest post-fight promos we’ve ever seen that day, and he doubled down when handed the microphone at WWE Monday Night RAW. Moments like that on the live microphone have only bolstered Chandler’s supporters and helped make UFC 303 one of the biggest fights in UFC history.

“Sometimes right away is a great idea, but the longer things marinate and the more fluctuation and negativity, it can make things bigger,” Chandler said. “Think about UFC 300, people thought it was going to be a bust and they were mad about how long it took to get a main event and about the poster and whatever else. All those haters on the UFC and look how awesome that event was.

“Conor and Khabib [Nurmagomedov] did great numbers, but this could possibly be the biggest comeback in combat sports history or Conor McGregor’s last fight. People are looking at it from an interesting lens but we’re the ones actually in it.

“I’m not worried about anyone else on the entire planet but myself. I want to do what’s best for my legacy and my family. This fight trumps any fight on the entire planet right now. This is iconic and checks every box.”

The bout will take place at welterweight, a weight class which Chandler hasn’t competed in since his professional MMA debut back in 2009. But the weight truly didn’t matter and having the bout at 170 pounds is actually ideal for Chandler.

MORE UFC 302: Islam Makhachev's Win Streak | Dustin Poirier Full-Fight Marathon

“I think 170 is perfect. There is training camp weight and then there is the weight cut and 170 is kind of the perfect weight class for me,” Chandler said. “It means I get to diet and supplement as I’d like while eating a little more and not stressing about a daunting weight cut. Conor and I are the same weight, so I was prepared for 155, 170, or 185.”

The timing of the fight also turned out to be perfect for Chandler, as high-profile lightweight fights will be in the books before UFC 303. At UFC 300, Max Holloway won the BMF title with a stunning knockout win over Justin Gaethje and at UFC 302, Islam Makhachev will face Dustin Poirier for the undisputed UFC lightweight title.

Michael Chandler is seen on stage during UFC X 2023 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on July 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Kirschbaum/Zuffa LLC)
Michael Chandler is seen on stage during UFC X 2023 at the Las Vegas Convention Center on July 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Mike Kirschbaum/Zuffa LLC)

With Holloway as the new BMF and the lightweight belt up for grabs just 27 days before he faces McGregor, there are plenty of options for Chandler should he defeat McGregor.

“Fighting at lightweight for the title or for the BMF belt are the opportunities I live for,” Chandler said. “This sport moves fast, and I would pounce on those opportunities.

“When I do what I’m going to do to Conor, I am going to call out Islam or Poirier, but I think Islam wins that fight. I think that’s an intriguing fight and it’s fresh. He’s fought all the guys except me. But there isn’t an MMA fan alive that wouldn’t want to see me fight Holloway for the BMF belt because I embody that.

“I’m going beat Conor and I’m going to be undeniable.”

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Don't miss a moment of UFC 303: Pereira vs Procházka 2, live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prelims start at 8pm ET/5pm PT, while the main kicks off live on PPV at 10p ET/7pm PT.