UFC star Michael Chandler is geared up and raring to go on debut

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Michael Chandler knows his way around the octagon very well. Chandler is a former three-time Bellator lightweight champion and also won the Bellator Season Four: Lightweight Tournament. Chandler has a mixed martial arts record of 26 fights, 21 wins, 9 by KO, 5 losses. The 34-year-old is now heading to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and will be making his debut at UFC 257 against Dan Hooker. The main event for UFC 257 will be Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirer.
Ahead of his big UFC debut, MMA star Michael Chandler discusses his focus, Khabib, Conor McGregor, his future plans and more.
Excerpts:
This is your second time to Fight Island, tell us about your experience during the first time being a backup to Gaetje as compared to having a fight scheduled now?My first trip to Abu Dhabi was a good one. I always knew there was a slim chance to fight at Fight Island. The first time I had to deal with the time change and other stuff, but this time it`s different because there is the pressure of the fight but also the excitement and motivation. The last time, I probably wasn`t going to fight but still had to make 155 pounds. The fighting part is easy, making the weight is the toughest part for me. Now I see familiar faces that I saw on Fight Island months ago. I am starting to get to know my new colleagues who I will be rubbing shoulders with, in my career ahead. I am excited about my UFC debut.
What are your thoughts on making your UFC debut on such a high profile card?It could not have been scripted any better for the first chapter of my UFC career. I came over as a big signing and the fans wanted me to fight right away but it could not happen. It seems like a long process, but to be the co-main event on what could be the biggest card of the year for my first fight and facing a top fighter like Dan Hooker, someone who is going to bring it, brings in a lot of hype. The bigger thing than being in the co-main event is actually being with Conor McGregor on a PPV. That could be what`s next if things go well, and I can check out both boxes in 2021. I am here to stay and here to achieve that goal. That first step is Saturday night on a big PPV with a lot of eyeballs.
How do you stay focused and do you feel pressure because of it being a big stage debut? Also, Khabib saying he would want to see something spectacular to come out of retirement.Not really. I know 100 per cent for certain that this card is much bigger than it is inside my mind. At the end of the day, it is the exact same sport and it is what I did for the 26 previous matches in my career, Letting the outside pressure will only hinder my performance. As far as Khabib making a comeback if he sees something spectacular – I expect myself to be spectacular every single time I perform. There is no added pressure when it comes to Khabib`s statements. I want to go out there and do my job. I would like to fight Khabib by the end of 2021. Khabib has preserved a spot as greatest lightweight of all-time so he has the right to sail off into the sunset and never fight again. But if he feels the itch to come back, why shouldn`t it be me?
With a win over Hooker, what would be next?If I dominate Hooker, there are 2 options. Conor or Khabib would want to fight me. That`s probably the biggest conundrum to be in MMA. To have the gold staring at you and the greatest undefeated MMA fighter in Khabib – greatest Test of your career. Then you have Conor-  the biggest name, the biggest hype and probably the most money as well. I would forego more money, notoriety, celebrity status to fight for the gold, the championship.
Tell us what are you feeling, knowing you will be fighting in the UFC octagon?I think its gratitude. I have been fighting outside UFC for a long time. I have dreamt of this moment for a long time as well as the pressure that comes along with it. But honestly, I do not feel any. I feel like I`m in a win-win situation and the blank page is ready for me to write the first chapter for me in UFC and what my career is going to look like. I am where I need to be physically, mentally and spiritually.
What makes Dan Hooker a dangerous opponent? How do you plan on dealing with his pace?Dane got one of the biggest hearts in the division, probably the hungriest in it. He can dish out and take damage as well. He got all the physical attributes and skillsets to be a champ. I have left no stone unturned in preparation and game planning. He poses a lot of threats, but that gets me excited. I have to go out there and earn it and that`s a recipe for success for me.
Is there anyone on the division beyond the top 6 that caught your attention?I study, watch fights, buy PPVs and watch them with my wife. I am always interested in the lightweight division. My eye is set on beating Dan Hooker and moving up toward no 1. Everyone in that top 10 is one way of becoming a contender. I have always operated with the thought that its ok to give props to your competitors.
Do you feel Dustin is approaching McGregor fight with the right mindset?If you know anything about Dustin, is that he thrives in the battle, he relishes the challenges. That`s when he pulls something out of the shelf to become that champion that he is. Conor has some of the most precise and powerful hands in the division. He can put away anyone with that right hook. If Poirer can avoid that right hand, we will see a great fight in the next rounds.
Watch UFC 257, featuring fighters like Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Dan Hooker and Jessica Eye,  on January 24, 2021, LIVE and Exclusive on SONY TEN 1 and SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) channels from 8.30 am IST

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