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‘See you at the top’: 2021 is a long time coming for UFC star Michael Chandler

(Photo Credit: UFC)

“See you at the top.”

After his action-packed debut in the Octagon at UFC 257, Michael Chandler didn’t hold back with his words during his post-fight interview with Jon Anik.

Moments after a first-round knockout against Dan Hooker in the night’s co-main event, Chandler called out the lightweight division’s biggest names.

Mimicking Conor McGregor’s “Surprise, surprise” line, just a few minutes before McGregor would fight Dustin Poirier in UFC 257’s main event, Chandler proclaimed that there was a “new king in the lightweight division.”

Calling out McGregor’s opponent that night, Chandler told Poirier that his “time is coming.”

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Lastly, Chandler went at the man who, at the time, held the lightweight title: Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“If you ever do see fit to grace us with your presence back here in the UFC Octagon, in your quest for 30-0, you’ve gotta beat somebody,” Chandler exclaimed. “So beat me, if you can.”

For those who were unfamiliar with Chandler’s MMA career and were watching the Missouri alum inside the cage for the first time, those comments may have seemed extreme.

For those who have followed Chandler’s 27-fight professional career that began all the way back in 2009, those words were coming from a man deserving of the opportunity.

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The “Iron” one was solid throughout his long tenure in Bellator, winning the lightweight title three times and successfully defending the belt on three other occasions. He recorded the most victories in Bellator lightweight history, along with the most submission wins in the division’s history.

He strung together the most stoppage wins in the company’s record books, and competed in the most title fights in the promotion’s history, as well.

He’s the definition of a journeyman, and after his run in Bellator, the then-34-year-old Chandler made the jump to the UFC in 2020, instantly becoming a name to watch out for in the UFC’s star-studded lightweight division.

He served as a backup for a lightweight title bout on Fight Island just a few weeks into his tenure with the UFC, and was thrown to the wolves with a tough matchup against Dan Hooker at UFC 257 in January of 2021.

With all sorts of hype around him, Chandler delivered in a big way, knocking out Hooker in the first round to earn a Performance of the Night bonus from Dana White and company.

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So, when the time came to make a splash during his post-fight interview, Chandler jumped into the deep end of the pool with a massive cannonball.

The man did all the right things during and after his debut, and positioned himself as a title contender right off the bat in one of the UFC’s deepest divisions.

As a result, he landed a bout with Charles Oliveira for the vacant UFC Lightweight Championship, which will take place at UFC 262 in Texas.

If Chandler can keep up the momentum and come away with the lightweight title in just his second fight in the UFC, there are seemingly infinite possibilities for the Missouri alum.

Title fights with the likes of Poirier, McGregor, Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, Rafael dos Anjos and more could all loom in the distance, and Chandler could be able to convince Nurmagomedov to return to the cage if the former can string together some successful title defenses.

No matter what happens, Chandler should be considered must-watch TV for the rest of 2021, and he was instantly able to make good on his promise to see everyone at the top.

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