Michael Chandler doesn't shy away from Bellator limelight

Dave Doyle

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- To hear some fighters tell it, the distractions leading up to a big fight are about as much fun as a root canal. The media conferences, open workouts, public weigh-ins, and so on, simply get in the way of their fight preparation.

Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler, though, isn't like some fighters. The undefeated Alliance MMA star will defend his title against underrated judoka Rick Hawn in the main event of of Bellator's Spike TV debut Thursday night in Irvine, Calif.

The way Chandler views it, fight-week festivities are as much a part of the fun of a fight career as anything else.

"I think I have a different take than a lot of people," Chandler said at Tuesday's open workouts. "This is a huge blessing when you think about it. The fact I have a microphone and people actually want to hear me talk, people are taking pictures. That's one of those things I think fighters and athletes and everything take for granted. It's cool, it's awesome it's part of the job."

Chandler thinks fighters should aspire to be the center of attention on fight week, not shy from the spotlight.

"At the end of the day, it's what you train for," Chandler said. "Without the fans, without the media, without the attention, without the fans being able to see you training, we wouldn't be here. I enjoy it. I've expressed to Bellator I'm a young, single guy, I've got no attachments, I can hop on a plane tomorrow and go wherever you want me to go. I want to get out and do this as much as I possibly can, because that's who I am and what I want to do, anything I do I want to be part of it. When it comes to PR, when it comes to fighting, every aspect of it, I want to be the best."

Of course, Chandler knows that he wouldn't be getting the red-carpet treatment if he wasn't able to get the job done in the cage. The former NCAA Division 1 wrestling All-American at Missouri has become an increasingly dynamic fighter with each bout. He won what many consider the best fight in Bellator history when he submitted Eddie Alvarez in the fourth round to win the lightweight title in 2011.

So even though Chandler isn't afraid to admit he enjoys the out-of-the-cage attention, he's not going to let it get in the way of Thursday's fight. Hawn's lost just once in 15 pro fights and brings an Olympic judo pedigree into the cage.

"I expect a tough fight," said Chandler. "I expect the toughest Rick Hawn we've ever seen. Any time you get an opportunity to fight for a belt, I'm sure he took ample amount of time and pooled his resources and did as much as he possibly could to put on a good performance Thursday night. Being a judo Olympian, you know he's trained right, you know he's trained hard and you know he's prepared. I get excited to fight a guy like that, because it keeps me on top of my game. It's obviously going to be a great show for the fans."

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