Michael Chandler was one of UFC’s hottest rookies. Most mixed martial arts fans were shocked when they learned that immediately after signing Michael would be a replacement fighter in the Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gatje fight. But why does the UFC brass have such a high opinion of him?
Childhood and The Beginning of His Journey
Michael Chandler Jr. was born on April 26, 1986, in Missouri. He grew up in the most average American family. This is not the kind of story where a guy made his way up from poverty. On the contrary, Michael’s whole life is one of moderate success and a set of moral values.
As the second child in the family, he was the source of pride for his parents. In almost every discipline in which young Chandler competed, he was at least second place. He had medals in American soccer and placed third in wrestling.
As cricket betting websites in India confirm, the top athletes are always versatile. The same cricket professionals have also come a long way.
The moment he entered university, Michael’s main traits of intelligence and awareness became apparent. Chandler entered the university in 2004. At the time of choosing a sport, he realized that he was small in size and that it would not be easy to compete in American soccer. So he decided to devote himself entirely to wrestling.
While playing for the University of Missouri, he crossed paths with many future UFC fighters such as Tyrone Woodley and Ben Askren. In four years of college wrestling appearances, Michael managed 100 victories. However, the victories came with 40 losses as well. That was enough to wrestle in the first division, but not enough to be the best in the country.
Here again, Chandler’s intelligence showed itself. He realized that time was running out and the chances of getting to the Olympics were getting slimmer and slimmer. So in 2010, he decided to move to MMA. Funny enough, Woodley and Askerne will also be making their mixed martial arts debut this year.
A couple of months of training and the world gets another fighter who can land a hard single punch. Michael, however, had his peculiarity. His speed was on another level. Any wrestler who learned how to punch would be half as slow as the athletic and speedy Chandler.
Already in his first professional fight, Chandler simply smeared his opponent. Early in the fight, he went to his feet, knocked his opponent down, and beat the poor guy with a ruthless takedown. After that, he was invited to fight in the elite Strikeforce promotion, where Chandler gets two more finishes and makes it to his home, Bellator.
It is in Bellator where Michael will spend 10 years of his life, make a name for himself and help the promotion grow. Interestingly enough, Michael had his first 2 fights in Bellator at the intermediate weight of 165 pounds. However, the result of those fights was no different than the previous ones. Chandler would move his opponents to the ground and there either smash them with punches or a painful hold.
After that, Michael takes on Bellator in his first ever Lightweight Grand Prix, where of course he was one of the main underdogs. It’s hard to expect outstanding results from a guy who’s been doing MMA for a little over a year.
Michael Chandler had a different take on it. The American saw time as his main opponent and decided to climb to the top of Bellator quickly. In just two months, Chandler defeated three opponents, including Patrick Freire. This victory would spark an irreconcilable fight between Michael and Freire.
The Road to The Championship
Standing in the way of this famous confrontation, however, was Chandler’s underground king, Eddie Alvarez. In just a couple of months, Chandler won the lightweight tournament and earned the right to fight for the organization’s championship belt, which Eddie held.
The bout took place in 2011. The betting clubs gave no odds to the one-punch fighter against true MMA veteran Alvarez. Once again, Chandler disagreed with the odds and decided to refute them. In the fight, he landed the very punch to Alvarez’s head that made the veteran float.
It was the beginning of one of the best fights in the history of world MMA. The 24-year-old undefeated Michael Chandler and Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez had a real cage war. It seemed that Michael’s inexperience would cause him to give up in the championship rounds, but no. Instead of fatigue, Michael finds a painful hold and successfully executes it.
Michael becomes the champion in the second strongest organization in the world at the age of 24. After the bout, Chandler earns his nickname “The Iron”. Three defenses of the belt followed such a standout bout. However, former champion Eddie Alvarez was eager for revenge and made it to the title fight.
The rematch took place in 2013. It seemed impossible to repeat what they showed in the first fight, but the fight was no less epic. This time the fight came down to the judges’ decision, where “Iron” Michael Chandler lost for the first time by a split decision. Eddie Alvarez immediately signed with the UFC after this fight.
After his first loss, Michael took a six-month break to get his family life together. During this time, he married a girl, the first 2 years of his relationship with whom he only corresponded. After the wedding, as his personal life went up, Michael decided to get his Bellator career back on track.
In May 2014, he returned to Bellator in an interim title fight against Will Brooks. It seemed like history was repeating itself, but this time it was Chandler who was the experienced Bellator fighter testing the younger opponent. Unfortunately, history did repeat itself. Michael lost by split decision to Brooks. However, the fight was so close that Bellator staged an immediate rematch.
This time the fight was for the undisputed title. Fans and pundits were convinced that Chandler would pick up the win this time, but what came out, in the end, astounded everyone. Michael was knocked out. 2014 was the worst year of Chandler’s career. He suffered three losses in a row. However, the fighter was nicknamed “The Iron” for a reason.
In 2015, the American returned even more charged and confident. He has no problem demolishing everyone in his path and making it to the title fight. Instead of the expected Brooks, Patrick “Pittbull” Freire was at the top of the rankings. While Chandler was climbing to the top, Brooks went the way of Alvarez and signed with the UFC.
But don’t underestimate Freire. He’s been dreaming of getting revenge on Chandler since his first loss. The fight with “Pittbull” lasted only a few seconds. The American delivered a heavy straight, and the Brazilian’s head nearly flew off to the back rows of the arena. Michael then defended his belt against former UFC champion Benson Henderson.
In his fight with Hendo, Michael showed real wrestling prowess. Despite winning that fight, the holes in Chandler’s game began to show. If he fails to finish his opponents in the first rounds, he gets tired and just lies down on his opponent. Michael didn’t go the way of Bellator champions Alvarez and Brooks. They all took the title and signed with UFC, but Chandler stayed with Bellator every time.
It seemed like Michael would rule the Bellator lightweight division for a long time, but suddenly he loses to underdog Brent Primus. After one of the locks, Chandler’s leg gave out and he was unable to competitively continue the fight or even stand up. The referee decides to stop the fight and award the victory to his opponent. After such a strange fight, Chandler needed to spend time with his family to recover. During this same period, he and his wife adopted a black child.
Already new, Chandler returns to Bellator and once again crushes everyone in his path. He demands the title. In 2018, the American goes out for a rematch with Brent Primus and simply dominates him in every aspect of the fight.
Chandler once again becomes champion. There was no time to celebrate, however. Patricio Freire’s brother Patricio wanted revenge. Bellator decides to arrange a champion vs. champion fight. Patricio owned the featherweight belt.
One of Bellator’s hottest fights ended in the first round. Patricio was able to avenge his brother and defeated Chandler by TKO in the first round. It seemed that after the loss, Michael had no shot at the UFC, but he picked up two early wins and signed to the best league in the world.
UFC and The Continuation of His Career
Once he got into the strongest organization in the world, the Americans got a lot of advances. First, he became an insurance fighter for Khabib against Gatje. His help wasn’t needed at the time and the fighter was given a fight against Dan Hooker.
The fight started unhurriedly. Hooker kept running away from Michael, clearly respecting his punching power. However, as soon as “The Ironman” got close and landed a punch, it was all over. Hooker collapsed on the canvas and the referee recorded Chandler’s victory. Surprisingly, the advances didn’t end there. UFC management was so impressed with Michael’s win that they gave him a chance to fight Oliveira for the vacant title.
The first round with Oliveira went to Chandler. He nearly finished his opponent, but the Brazilian made it to the second round. In the second segment, Chandler missed a short sidekick in the exchange and flew out for the knockout. The American wasn’t about to give up and took the fight against one of the most intimidating fighters in the lightweight division, Justin Gatgey.
It was a crazy fight. Two fighters with dynamites in their hands tried to knock each other out for 15 minutes. Everyone was expecting an early conclusion, but the fight came down to a decision where Michael lost.
As of now, this is Chandler’s last fight in the UFC. In his next fight, he is likely to fight another top contender, Dustin Porter. The fight promises to be just as interesting as the fight with Gatje. Michael may never win the UFC belt, but he will forever go down in MMA history for his uncompromising fights and the standout performances that fans love so much.