Michael Chandler takes on Justin Gaethje in the “people’s main event” at UFC 268 Saturday in New York. (Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
PLAYERS & TEAM EARNINGS

UFC 268: Boardroom Q&A with Michael Chandler

“You’re gonna have to separate me or Justin Gaethje from consciousness,” the lightweight contender tells Boardroom ahead of UFC 268. “This one has a finish written all over it.”

After making his UFC debut in thunderous fashion, former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler told a stunned, thrilled Abu Dhabi crowd that he wasn’t going to be here for a long time, but that he’d be here for a good time. And after that showstopping first-round KO against Dan Hooker, he was fast-tracked for a shot at a 155-pound championship in a second MMA promotion.

He ended up falling short against incumbent belt-holder Charles Oliveira four months later. But when a chance to put on a show under the lights at Madison Square Garden emerged, the pride of High Ridge, Missouri wasn’t about to drag heels or lick wounds.

Before he opens the main card at UFC 268 Saturday night at the World’s Most Famous Arena against the similarly fearsome Justin Gaethje, Boardroom spoke with the MMA veteran about his competitive drive, getting back into the title conversation, and what’s extra-special about a fight night in New York.

As Michael Chandler explained to Boardroom at UFC 268 media day on Wednesday:

It feels like the people’s main event, mainly because the other two are title fights. This one has title implications — I belive the winner of this one will be the No. 1 contender. But I think that win, lose, or draw, myself and Justin Gaethje, we come to bring it and we’re always in exciting fights. We’ve never been in a boring fight, so it’s a recipe for Fight of the Night and I’m excited to go out there and compete.

I approach every single fight the same, honestly. There’s no animosity; there’s mutual respect. I got a job to do. A guy my size who’s well-versed in mixed martial arts who’s got two arms and two legs just like the last 28 people I’ve fought. Nothing really changes.

I’m looking forward to competing at Madison Square Garden. This card just feels different. It’s big, it’s got a lot of eyeballs, people watching, and it’s a great stage to go out there and steal the show.

I think Justin Gaethje and myself have both proven that we’re just about as unbreakable as you can be inside the octagon. You’re gonna have to separate me from consciousness or separate him from consciousness to really get either of us out of there.

There’s no quit in either of us, so it just depends — the human body is capable of amazing things. Maybe it can fight through for 15 minutes, but this one has a finish written all over it.

The ultimate goal is to be a UFC champion and become the No. 1 guy in the world. If it’s [against] Charles Oliveira, so be it. I’d love to run it back. If it’s Dustin Poirier, he and I have exchanged some words and he’s dismissed me in the past as if I didn’t deserve to be here. I would love to go ahead and prove that.

Either way, there’s no shortage of phenomenal fighters, phenomenal matchups in the UFC lightweight division, and I’m excited to be a part of it and I’m excited to go out there and prove on Saturday night against Justin Gaethje that I’m one of the best in the world.

Big knockout in the Big Apple. Let’s do it.

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Of course, we couldn’t resist ending with our favorite question — if the UFC returned to the bygone days of zero weight divisions and put on an “Openweight Grand Prix” tournament, which sort of weight would Chandler arrive at?

“I’d probably be 195-ish because that’s kind of where I get up to after fights,” he said.

And who would he face in the hypothetical championship bout?

“I don’t know. Any of ’em.”

Michael Chandler’s Vital Stats & Career Accomplishments

  • Age: 35
  • Hometown: High Ridge, Missouri
  • Height: 5-foot-8
  • Current weight class: Lightweight (155 pounds)
  • Reach: 71.5 inches
  • Nickname: Iron
  • Pro MMA record: 22-6
  • College wrestler at Missouri. 2009 NCAA Division I All-American
  • Bellator Season 4 Lightweight Tournament champion
  • Former three-time Bellator lightweight champion
  • Successfully defended Bellator lightweight title three times
  • Scored a first-round TKO in his UFC debut in January 2021
  • UFC lightweight championship challenger
  • Currently No. 5 in UFC lightweight rankings

UFC 268 begins with early prelims at 6 p.m. ET Saturday night on ESPN+. Prelims begin at 8 p.m. on ESPNews, with the main card touching off at 10 p.m. ET exclusively on ESPN+ pay-per-view. Michael Chandler vs. Justin Gaethje is the first fight scheduled on the PPV portion of the card.

Click here to check out Boardroom’s interview with fellow UFC 268 main card competitor Frankie Edgar.

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