UFC president Dana White explained to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto why his company was giving a title shot to former Bellator MMA champ Michael Chandler after just one fight in the UFC. According to the UFC boss, Chandler’s “attitude” is what helped get him the gig for gold this weekend at UFC 262.
“His attitude and obviously the knockout of [Dan] Hooker is what got him in this position…I love this kid’s attitude,” White said.
Chandler stunningly stopped Hooker in the first round at UFC 257. It was the 35-year-old’s first win in the UFC after spending the majority of his career with Bellator MMA where he was a three-time lightweight champion.
But Chandler is currently ranked No. 4 in the UFC’s official lightweight rankings, and he somehow still managed to secure a slot to fight for the vacant UFC lightweight championship against No. 3-ranked UFC lightweight contender Charles Oliveira at UFC 262 on May 15.
White explained how all that came about, and it’s due to the power and influence of UFC superstar Conor McGregor.
ALL the latest UFC news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on UFC newsletter here!
How UFC 264 Influenced UFC 262
White said Dustin Poirier was “the guy” who probably deserved to be fighting for the belt but that “The Diamond” chose instead to fight McGregor.
Poirier defeated McGregor by knockout at UFC 257 four months ago. Now, the two stars are headed into an immediate rematch at UFC 264 on July 10.
“Well, Dustin Poirier was ‘the guy,’ and he decided to take the Conor fight, which he should have. It’s exactly what he should have done,” White said. “These fights…happen every once in a blue moon. He made the right decision.”
White also said making UFC 264: Poirier vs. McGregor 3 happen was the right move for McGregor.
“That’s the fight that makes sense. You do that trilogy. Coming off that second fight, the way it went down, the way it played out, you absolutely, positively do that fight,” White said.
Poirier is ranked No. 1 at 155 and McGregor is the most popular UFC superstar in the world. White didn’t explain how the division’s No. 2 ranked contender Justin Gaethje could be left out in the cold, but he wasn’t asked about it either.
Follow the Heavy on UFC Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
UFC 262: ‘Both Guys Are on a Tear’
Regardless, White is excited to see what happens on May 15 at UFC 262: Oliveira vs. Chandler.
“Both guys are on a tear. First of all, Michael Chandler, I love this kid’s attitude. He’s willing to fight anybody, anywhere,” White said.
White commended Chandler for serving as the backup fighter for UFC 254 in his first gig with the company last year after he left Bellator MMA to join the UFC.
He also noted Oliveira’s strong claim to the other spot in the fight for the vacant strap. Oliveira enters his fight for gold riding an eight-fight win streak after dominating former interim champ Tony Ferguson in his last fight.
“The consistency of Oliveira, the way that this guy has just climbed up the rankings, grinding it out, and just continued to beat and dominate people, this is an incredible main event,” Oliveira said.
So White is expecting a fun main event for UFC 262.
“Both guys are so hungry and want this title so bad. It just makes the fight that much more fun,” White said.
White Reveals Thoughts About Tony Ferguson
White expects more fun fights to be made in the lightweight division in the future.
“There’s just so many tough guys and so many fun fights that you can make,” White said.
While most pundits expect the winner of UFC 262: Oliveira vs. Chandler to face the winner of UFC 264: Poirier vs. McGregor 3, the UFC’s lightweight roster is one of the deepest divisions in the sport.
So White said he could also see UFC star Tony Ferguson climb his way back into the mix if the American gets back in the win column this weekend against Beneil Dariush.
“It’s a big fight for him, man. He’s a huge fan favorite, so if he comes in and he performs, he’ll be right back on top of the game. We just got to see which Tony Ferguson shows up,” White said.
Ferguson vs. Dariush is the co-main event fight for UFC 262.
YouTube: Real Talk with Kelsey and Rachel