It’s hard to imagine anyone handling a loss better than Michael Chandler as he faced the music after suffering a second-round TKO to new lightweight champion Charles Oliveira at UFC 262.
While losing is never easy, Chandler hasn’t shied away from doing interviews or speaking openly about the mistakes he made that night after nearly finishing the Brazilian in the first round but then having the tables turned on him just moments after the second round started.
“I blame this completely on myself,” Chandler said when speaking to MMA Fighting on Tuesday. “I took one on the chin. I didn’t have my hand up and Charles Oliveira was able to finish me. I was very close to finishing him in the first round, which probably makes it even harder to accept. The fact that I was a split second or one second or one more punch of becoming the UFC lightweight champion but I lost in the second round. I got finished in the second round. I’m taking full ownership of that.
“I’ve been in contact with my coaches promising that I’m going to be more disciplined in my striking. I’m going to be more disciplined in my approach to the game. We make some adjustments, we go back to the drawing boards. I am by no means anywhere close to being done with this sport.”
With hopes of eventually earning a rematch with Oliveira down the road as well as the ultimate goal of becoming UFC champion within the next 12 months, Chandler is ready to get back to work as soon as he gives his mind and body some time to heal.
Considering he’s been signed with the UFC for less than a year, Chandler has already flown halfway across the world and cut weight to serve as an alternate for a title fight then came home and promptly knocked out Dan Hooker in his octagon debut just a few months later. After that, Chandler was booked in the title fight against Oliveira and he’s just now taking a breather for the first time since inking his initial contract with the promotion.
Add to that, Chandler understands that head trauma is no joke so he wants to give himself the proper time off before rushing back into another training camp.
“Focus on my health for a couple of months and get back into training camp sometime in the fall,” Chandler said. “I will fight before the end of the year. I will have come into the UFC and a matter of 14 months and fight three times and was the backup for a world title fight one time. That’s pretty darn good on a resume.”
Chandler had barely left the octagon when UFC president Dana White was already teasing a potential matchup against former lightweight title challenger Justin Gaethje in his next fight.
Obviously, White was just mentioning possible matchups for down the road but Chandler knows an eventually clash against Gaethje is something that’s been talked about ever since he joined the UFC roster.
“I think Gaethje-Chandler is probably the biggest fan favorite fight on the entire planet right now,” Chandler said. “I think he becomes a part of my highlight reel or I become a part of his highlight reel and both of us come forward and enjoy a good old fashioned, passionate scrap. That’s how he’s wired. That’s how I’m wired.
“Justin Gaethje’s been on the tips of the UFC’s tongue, our tongue, myself and my management, since we signed with the UFC. It just hasn’t worked out that way for numerous different reasons.”
The only problem that might prevent Chandler from taking on Gaethje next is the timeline for his return to action.
Because he wants to allow his mind and body to recover before going through the rigors of another training camp, Chandler doesn’t anticipate competing again until the latter part of the year while Gaethje has already been sidelined since October 2020.
That means Gaethje would likely be staring at a year or more out of action in order to draw Chandler as his next opponent.
For his part, Chandler has no problem accepting that fight but he’s also not going to rush back into the fray before he’s ready.
“Timing right now is the issue,” Chandler explained. “I just fought eight days ago, 10 days ago, whatever it was, he hasn’t fought in eight or 10 months at this point. It’s going to be a timing thing. You’ve got Beneil Dariush, who just fought, obviously he wants some time off because of his family. Who knows.
“All I know, the top five in the UFC is aplenty when it comes to talent and that’s a fight that I would welcome. It’s just got to make sense on the timeline and I tell you what, people will be chomping at the bit to see that fight.”
After the UFC president mentioned that potential fight as a possibility, former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez chimed in because he’s actually faced both Chandler and Gaethje in the past with a win over each of them.
In his opinion, Alvarez believes Gaethje would be a “terrible matchup” for the former Bellator lightweight champion but obviously Chandler disagrees.
“Well No. 1, you can’t look at the top five, top six guys and there’s scenarios where we are all bad matchups for each other and we are all good matchups for each other,” Chandler said. “It’s all the upper echelon, it’s all the top five, top six on the entire planet at a certain weight class.
“I’ll tell you this — if Eddie Alvarez can beat Justin Gaethje, I can definitely beat Justin Gaethje. I won’t just TKO him. I believe I’ll knock Justin Gaethje out cold. I’ll keep a high pace just like Eddie did. It will be a very fun fight. It’s a fight people want to see.”
Of course hearing the comments from Alvarez might get under the skin of some fighters but Chandler won’t begrudge his former opponent an opportunity to offer his opinion.
Chandler just looks forward to the chance to prove him wrong.
“I appreciate Eddie,” Chandler said. “Eddie’s a guy, I spent almost 50 minutes in the cage with. We never got that trilogy to happen so maybe sometime down the line, we can make it happen. It’s all part of it.
“You’ve got to respect Eddie. Eddie’s a legend. He is 100 percent a Hall of Famer when it comes to lightweights. One of the greatest lightweights of all time. I’m going to have to have a conversation with him and see what he thinks.”