After having come out on the wrong end of the decision to Justin Gaethje in an instant-classic battle in the Octagon earlier this month, Michael Chandler has no doubt that his opponent is now in line for a title shot, and has predicted ‘The Highlight’ will be crowned lightweight champion by the summer of next year.
“I think Justin Gaethje is the clear-cut No. 1 contender,” Chandler said on The MMA Hour. “He just beat me. [Islam] Makhachev, obviously the way he dispatched Dan Hooker was absolutely phenomenal. What he did was great. Does it warrant a title shot? Not compared to what Justin Gaethje has done, that’s my thought.”
Of course before that could happen current champion Charles Oliveira will fight Dustin Poirier at UFC 269 next month, but regardless of who wins, Chandler believes that Gaethje will get the better of whoever holds the belt at that stage.
“I think Justin Gaethje breaks Charles Oliveira. But the more likely scenario is Poirier wins that fight because I think he has more tools and he’s just better in certain areas and he’s not going to get submitted by Oliveira, even though we have seen an increased striking level by Oliveira, as we saw in our fight. But I think Justin Gaethje cleans up a couple of things, remembers how he lost to Dustin Poirier a couple of years ago, and I think he wins the title, middle of next year.”
As for his own fight with Gaethje, while he’s not happy to have lost and taken a considerable amount of damage in the process, Chandler still feels that his stock has only risen as a result of the ‘Fight Of The Year’ candidate.
“Just the way that the fight happened, the atmosphere, the fans reactions, the UFC’s reaction, the media’s reaction, it feels like a win,” Chandler said. “Truthfully — and this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and it really happened when I came to the UFC — are we there to collect wins and losses? Absolutely. Do we really want to win most of the time? Absolutely.
“But people aren’t going to remember wins and losses. They’re going to remember how you made them feel. I think the feeling that people got it was the epitome of why people love this sport was the feeling they got from me vs. Justin Gaethje at Madison Square Garden with everything on the line and two dudes who we did exactly what we said we were gonna do. You get a lot of bluster, a lot of trash talk, a lot of braggadocious puffed-up chest talking about being a fighter, talking about coming forward, getting in a guy’s face, being an exciting fighter, and some people just don’t deliver. Justin Gaethje and I said we were gonna do that and we did it. So we are men of our word in every sense of the word and I’m happy with it, man.”