Michael Chandler has enjoyed nothing but massive fights since joining the UFC roster, but he’s still seeking an opportunity to face the biggest superstar of them all.
Just weeks away from his fourth appearance inside the octagon with a matchup against Tony Ferguson at UFC 274, the ex-Bellator lightweight champion hasn’t forgotten about his desire to eventually face Conor McGregor.
Prior to the Ferguson fight booking, Chandler believed he was the right candidate to welcome McGregor back after the devastating broken leg suffered in his last bout against Dustin Poirier in July 2021. While Chandler is putting his full attention on Ferguson on May 7, he still has eyes on McGregor and the timing for his eventual return later this year.
“I want that Conor fight just for the magnitude of the moment,” Chandler told MMA Fighting. “Stepping inside that octagon and doing something really monumental and fighting him in front of all the mixed martial arts eyeballs. I mean eyeballs across the whole entire world. You don’t get a bigger platform than fighting Conor McGregor.
“That’s what I would love to happen, if I don’t get the title shot, of course. But July [or] August would be great for me. I will go out there beat Tony in May, just have a little bit of time to recover, and then go right back in there for a July [or] August fight. The timing works out perfect.”
During McGregor’s recovery, the Irishman has teased a comeback at multiple weight classes, including his most recent declaration that he is seeking a third UFC title with hopes that he can challenge reigning welterweight king Kamaru Usman.
It seems highly unlikely that wish will be granted, with Usman already expected to face Leon Edwards in his next title defense and undefeated contender Khamzat Chimaev also waiting in the wings.
A trilogy against Nate Diaz might also be enticing, but with only one fight remaining on his current contract, the UFC hasn’t been all that receptive about booking the Stockton, Calif. native in high-profile matchups like he would get with McGregor.
That’s why Chandler feels like he’s exactly the kind of challenge that McGregor needs in a return from injury while also attempting to bounce back from two losses in a row.
“I think I’m a great guy for Conor,” Chandler said. “If he comes back and he doesn’t get that title shot, he’s going to have to go through somebody to get that title shot. I think I’m kind of that perfect guy right there, ranked about No. 5. If he comes in and gets a win over me, he definitely gets the title shot. We’ll see.
“This is the fight business and it’s a business for a reason. We’ll see how the chips fall. All I know is May 7, I’m going to go out there and put on a great performance, and Conor knows I would love to fight him. He has mentioned that he would love to fight me down the line as well, so we’ll see what happens.”
Outside of the fight itself, Chandler also understands that facing McGregor comes along with a whole other multitude of potential issues, because every time “The Notorious” competes, the entire world seems to be watching.
To add to that, McGregor is well known for his venomous trash talk, which has arguably gone over the line on occasion, especially when he was attacking the families of past 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 battle with McGregor — or anybody else — on the microphone if it’s necessary. But Chandler also doesn’t expect McGregor to go for low blows against him if the two are booked, because ultimately he views the matchup as one that would sell itself, with no personal attacks necessary to get people interested in watching.
“Obviously, that’s one of the things you think about with Conor,” Chandler said. “I think that’s why guys have lost to Conor, not just because of Conor’s skill, but because of the magnitude of the moment, the build-up, the fight week, the trash talk, all of the energy you spend outside of just fighting Conor. My gut says I don’t think Conor’s going to stoop that low with me.
“I think what happens is it just progressively gets lower and lower and lower as you stack on insults and personal insults and personal digs. I’m obviously never going to personal with a fighter. I wouldn’t see Conor would go too far with that. I think Conor would trash talk and build a fight, hype the fight, try to get in my head of course, but I’m very confident in my ability to withstand that. Not just withstand that but fire back in an intelligent manner.”
During his rise to stardom, McGregor was relentless with his verbal assault on opponents, but was also specific about the kinds of insults he would use to go after somebody.
It wasn’t until more recently that he started to involve wives, children, and the families of the fighters he’s preparing to face. Even Chandler has noticed the change in McGregor’s demeanor, but he’s still not going to lose any sleep over what’s being said ahead of a fight.
“One of the things we loved about Conor McGregor, his trash talk wasn’t just personal insults,” Chandler said. “It was calculated, intelligent, research-rich type of things. You could tell the man did his research whenever he was going to attack somebody. Whether it be attacking their fighting style, attacking their attributes both positive or negative, and honestly it was beautiful to watch.
“I would be ready for it. I consider myself a guy that would be completely OK with getting into a linguistical jiu-jitsu battle with Conor McGregor, a battle of wits if you will, and keep it pretty PG-13, if not a little bit worse than that, but that’s it.”