When the roster was announced for last season’s Bellator lightweight tournament, few people paid any mind to Michael Chandler.
Chandler not only won the lightweight tournament, but did so in impressive fashion, earning him the opportunity to face current champion Eddie Alvarez. Once again considered a long-shot, Chandler’s confidence is at an all-time high as he prepares to shock the world this weekend in Florida.
“[I was] going into the tournament as the dark horse or a no-name guy when there are fighters like Rob McCullough and Toby Imada; people didn’t expect anything out of me. I knew I was going to win and I knew I had the ability to do so. It was just a matter of putting it all together, fighting those three fights and coming away with the victories. Afterwards it was kind of a feather in my cap and hopefully it helped build some respect for me as a fighter. The Bellator tournament is a grueling process. Once that was over the weight was lifted and it was time to start training for the biggest fight of my career.
“The 5 month journey of constant training and preparation for your next fight, battling through injuries and persevering has paid off and now it’s time for the big fight. Winning the tournament and earning the automatic title shot is the reason I signed with Bellator. Now that I’ve done that and it’s all behind me, the focus is on fighting Eddie Alvarez. I feel blessed to be in the position that I’m in and I can’t wait to win the belt.”
Alvarez is considered by many in MMA to be one of the top lightweight fighters in the world. Since coming to Bellator, his reign has been dominant and his commentary leading up to this weekend’s bout has been less than complimentary.
“The things I’ve heard from Alvarez are the type of things I might be saying if I were in his position, but I’ve only been in the fight game for two years. I’ve only had eight fights and they haven’t come against big named fighters. Alvarez has done his work. He’s fought in Japan, worked his way up and he’s ranked top five in the world.
“Not to take anything away from Alvarez, because I think he’s a great fighter, but I think people give him way too much credit as far as his wrestling goes. People say he’s a powerful wrestler but when you are fighting guys in Japan who have never stepped foot on a wrestling mat, that isn’t a great way to measure those skills. I think his wrestling is overrated and I know I have him outmatched in that aspect.
“Feeling he has superior MMA skills is to be expected because of his past accomplishments, but with that being said, when he first started out in MMA I was getting started with my college wrestling career. That type of training, intensity and atmosphere, in my mind is ten times harder than anything he’s been through. I know what I’ve been through has been far more than anything he’s experienced in his career or in training. I don’t care if it’s a fight, chess or checkers. I know I’m coming into anything I do against him more prepared than he is.”
The title bout was originally slated for October 15th until an injury from Alvarez pushed the fight back. While another young fighter preparing for the biggest night of his career may have become rattled, Chandler saw the positives and took advantage of the situation.
“I’m prepared for anything he can throw at me. Whether it is a little bit of trash talking or postponement, it doesn’t matter. Pushing the fight back only gave me an extra month to prepare for Eddie Alvarez. I’m training at the best camp in the world and that is going to show on fight night. I have a great group of trainers and the fighters I train with from Gray Maynard, Jay Heiron, Martin Kampmann to Mike Pyle, they have been through it all.
“There isn’t one conversation I have with any of those guys where they can’t share with me what they’ve been through and how to fix something I need to adjust. I’m like the little brother in the gym and all of my big brothers have really taken care of me to make sure I’m constantly improving my skills. On November 19th I’m going to step into the cage with nothing but confidence and go in there and get the win.”
As fight night approaches and the naysayers continuing to stack the odds against him, Chandler remains focused on the task at hand, and plans on walking out of the cage this Saturday with the Bellator lightweight title.
“My mental toughness and my mindset towards competition are going to be more than what he has due to my wrestling background and the things I’ve experienced. He can say I’m just a wrestler who is excited about MMA but when that cage door closes it’s just him and I. It all comes down to who wants it more, who’s trained harder and who is really the tougher guy. That’s what I’m bringing into the cage, that is what I have to offer, and I think those are bigger than a few more years of MMA experience.”
“I can’t say what it going to happen as far as it being a stand-up brawl or ground and pound, but I know I’m a completely different fighter after the past six to seven months of training. I plan on surprising a lot of people in this fight. I think a lot of people know how tough I am, but I don’t think people are expecting me to bring it against a guy that is ranked top five in the world. My goal is to go out there and shock the world. I want to shock every single person who tunes into MTV2 on the 19th.”