Michael Chandler, the surprise stand-in should Khabib Nurmagomedov or Justin Gaethje withdraw from their scrap for the UFC lightweight title next month, has pledged to beat either man and former champions such as Conor McGregor.
Three-time Bellator lightweight champion Chandler was announced as the understudy in the event of a drop-out at UFC 254, potentially giving him the chance to challenge Russian title holder Nurmagomedov or interim champion Gaethje.
Chandler is training intensely twice a day and drawing on the ample experience he has gained during his 26-fight, 11-year professional career ahead of what he has described as a “phenomenal opportunity.”
“I know I’m going to be ready to step in that cage, October 24th, and beat either Khabib or Gaethje if something goes awry,” Chandler warned, speaking to TMZ after signing for the UFC as a free agent.
“The main thing is me staying in the gym, preparing for Khabib, Gaethje, Ferguson, Poirier, Conor – any of those guys in the top five.
“I told the UFC, ‘I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time.’ I want to jump right into that top five straight away. Sink or swim, throw me in with the wolves.”
The 34-year-old former wrestler spent almost 10 years with Bellator before signing off with a knockout win against Benson Henderson in Connecticut last month.
He won the lightweight crown little more than a year after joining the promotion, and the most recent of his five losses came in a first-round knockout defeat to former victim Patricio Freire last year that cost him the title.
“People love a winner but they love, even more, the winner who loses, comes back and sets themselves up for a comeback,” he declared.
“I’m going to be ready. I’m a different animal who lives his life right.
“You’re going to be hard pressed to find a guy who works as hard as I do and lives the kind of life that I do.”
Chander portrayed himself hard at work in Abu Dhabi on Instagram and published an illustration of himself lining up to face the leading fighters in the lightweight division, including Nurmagomedov, Gaethje, McGregor and Ferguson.