Michael Chandler wasn’t initially sold on Islam Makhachev. While “Iron” did give him some credit for his fighting skills, he still didn’t feel that Khabib Nurmagomedov’s protege was deserving of all the hype and title contender talk.
Fast forward to the present day and Chandler is singing a different tune after Makhachev disposed of Charles Oliveira rather easily at UFC 280 to become the new Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight champion of the world (see it again here).
“Islam is the real deal,” Chandler said in an interview with MMA On Point. (via MMA Junkie). “I think when I was asked before about it, my answer, I stand behind it. Islam hadn’t fought anybody in that top five and not necessarily just that, but it was the fact that Charles had looked so dominant, as well … Charles ran through, what, four guys? He fought me then he beat (Dustin) Poirier and beat (Justin) Gaethje.”
Chandler previously came up short in his own bid to dethrone Oliveria, losing to him via second-round technical knockout (TKO) at UFC 262 in May 2021, so he knows firsthand just how tough “Do Bronx” is once you’re locked in the cage with him. It’s because of how Makhachev had his way with the Brazilian bomber that really impressed him.
“You’re talking the who’s who of the top three, top five guys, and the impressiveness in the nature in which he was finishing guys, he just looked awesome. Islam came out there and showed that he was a force to be reckoned with on the feet, obviously a force to be reckoned with on the ground, and caught Charles in that choke, and we have a new champion, and his name is Islam,” he added.
Makhachev’s first title defense will likely come against Featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, possibly at UFC 284 on Feb. 11, 2023. Still, Chandler is out to do his part to punch his ticket to another 155-pound title fight, possibly against Makhachev, when he faces Dustin Poirier in the co-main event of UFC 281 on Nov. 12.
“Islam proved that he was who he said he was,” Chandler said. “I stand corrected. He’s our champion, and I hope I can go out there on November 12th, can win my fight, and get that title shot soon.”