UFC 257: Michael Chandler Eyes Dominant Win Over Dan Hooker

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UFC, Michael Chandler
Image courtesy of Bellator

Michael Chandler is looking to make a statement in his UFC debut against Dan Hooker at UFC 257.

After almost a decade fighting in Bellator, Chandler signed with the UFC in September last year, with an aim to prove that he is one of the best lightweights in the world. His initial plan was to fight a top five lightweight, such as Dustin Poirier or Tony Ferguson, but both turned down the opportunity to welcome him to the Octagon.

“Last Possible Option”

Chandler was also linked to a fight with the division’s most recent title challenger, Justin Gaethje, but things didn’t work out. Instead, the former Bellator champion is set to face the number six ranked Hooker, who with all due respect, was his “last possible option”, he told MMA Fighting.

“At the risk of making Dan Hooker feel like he was the last possible option, obviously we worked on some other things,” Chandler revealed. “Since the day that I signed, October 24th was going to be the date. It was offered to Poirier, it was offered to Ferguson, lo and behold they both turn it down and I become the backup [for Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Justin Gaethje at UFC 254], which is completely fine. Then we shifted our focus to this card, January 23rd, months ago and the name, the opponent was going to be Tony Ferguson.

“For some reason, he didn’t want to be on this January 23rd card. Basically he said no, said nothing, I was home, I wasn’t in fight camp and he calls me out on short notice to fight him in December. He takes a short notice fight against Charles Oliveira. He loses to Oliveira. Oliveira’s now number three. Then we shifted gears. Hooker’s always one of the names that was thrown around and now it’s finally booked and I’m glad it’s booked. He’s ranked number six, he’s in the upper echelon of the top ten. It’s a good introductory fight to show the UFC fans who I am. Go out there, get a win on the biggest card of 2021.”

Hooker’s Verbal Attacks

Hooker has expressed his willingness to welcome Chandler to the UFC on a number of occasions, and hasn’t been very kind in his approach, going as far as calling the 34 year old a ‘B-league’ fighter who doesn’t belong in the UFC.

But Chandler isn’t too concerned about the trash talk. In fact, he welcomes it, as he looks forward to proving that he belongs amongst the UFC lightweight elite.

“Truthfully, that was the one silver lining — Dan Hooker actually saying my name,” Chandler said. “Dan Hooker saying he would fight me. I think Paul Felder was the only other guy who said he would fight me. Everybody else either say no when the fight was offered to them or just stayed quiet. That’s not a knock on anybody. I didn’t expect for me to come in, being the new guy, being the guy that came from Bellator and everybody expecting or saying I deserved a guy in the top five. All I can do is make the best decision I can with the information that I have and the UFC wants to get me one of the top guys. They want to see where I stack up in the lightweight division and all of those names were thrown around.

“We settled on Dan Hooker. He actually stepped up and said he wanted to fight me and I welcome that. I welcome all the trash talk. All the belittling. All the name calling. But it really doesn’t matter. Once you step in that cage and the octagon door locks, it’s going to be 15 minutes of may the best man win and I’m excited to go out there and test my skills and I’m ready to go out there and prove that I deserve to be in the upper echelon of the UFC lightweight division and a guy who should be stepping into a title shot in 2021.”

Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor Backup

Chandler and Hooker will fight in the co-main event at UFC 257, headlined by Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. In case either of the two main event fighters were to pull out due to unforeseen circumstances, the Nashville native wouldn’t mind filling in. But for now, he is focused on the task at hand.

“You want to be on that card,” Chandler stated. “Plus the UFC wants another 155-pound fighter on that card in case there is an injury, in case there is a positive COVID test. Who knows what’s going to happen. In the era of the coronavirus, it’s always good to have the main event have a backup fight, if you will, and I could get tapped for that. But for now my focus is on Dan Hooker and getting my first UFC win inside the octagon.”

Eyes On Khabib

With a dominant win over Hooker, not only does Chandler want to prove he’s one of the best lightweights in the world, but also impress the champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is retired, but needs a solid challenge to reconsider his decision.

“I want to put a stamp on my introduction for who I am to the UFC fans by finishing Dan Hooker or dominating him,” Chandler said. “It really puts me in a position to where maybe I get the winner of Conor-Poirier or I get the next title shot against Khabib.

 “I think if I go out there and showcase my wrestling skills, too. I mean there’s no doubt I want to go out there and knock Dan Hooker out, but I also want to show the world my wrestling skills. I want to put a stamp on good old fashioned American wrestling. Maybe I can entice Khabib to come back for the American wrestling versus Russian Sambo and see if he can get to 30-0 and beat me — if he can.”

How do you see the UFC 257 co-main event between Michael Chandler and Dan Hooker playing out?

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