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Michael Chandler shares words of support for old Bellator rival Will Brooks

The rivalry between Will Brooks and Michael Chandler dominated the Bellator lightweight headlines in 2014. Over the course of seven months, Brooks and Chandler collided twice with the 155-pound title on the line, with Brooks first stealing the belt away from Chandler via split decision, then finishing Chandler with a fourth-round TKO in the rematch. Fittingly, Brooks went on to hold the belt until he departed Bellator for the UFC in 2016, and Chandler quickly snapped the title back up in his rival’s absence.

The prevailing assumption upon Brooks’ departure was that his success in Bellator would translate into the Octagon, just as Eddie Alvarez’s did when Alvarez left Bellator as champion then captured the UFC title in short order. But, perhaps unexpectedly, things haven’t played out so smoothly. After winning his UFC debut, Brooks has lost a trio of consecutive fights — the first losing streak of his career, all via stoppage, culminating in a disappointing submission loss to Nik Lentz at UFC Sydney.

And count Chandler among those surprised by how Brooks’ UFC run has begun.

“I am. I really, really am. And the funny thing is, no matter how big of a rivalry you could have with somebody, and no matter how much you might dislike the way someone is, or we’ve had our differences, we have our history — I still feel for the guy,” Chandler said recently on The MMA Hour. “Man, nobody deserves to lose three fights in a row. When you can’t get your footing, your confidence is down in the dumps, things are going wrong here, things are going wrong there, you just can’t catch a break — it’s tough, man. I saw it happen and I saw some of the comments. Like, people are just ruthless. This man just steps into the cage, puts himself on the line, and loses in front of millions of people, and all people can say is negative, mean things.

“And that’s just the world we live in. So I’m here to say that, I’m one of his not-so-big supporters, but keep your head up, man. Your best days can still happen if you continue to believe in yourself and you continue to work hard.”

Chandler speaks from experience, because not long ago, he was in a situation that mirrored the one Brooks finds himself in now.

Chandler’s losses to “Ill Will” put Chandler his own three-fight losing streak, which also marked the first setbacks of his until-then unbeaten MMA career. At the time, many individuals within the MMA community seemed to write off Chandler as one of the top 155-pound fighters in the world. But Chandler ultimately turned things around, rebounding to win four straight bouts, highlighted by a hard-fought victory over ex-UFC champion Benson Henderson. Today, Chandler once again is widely considered one of the best lightweights in the world.

So as someone who pulled himself out of a tailspin and rerighted his career, Chandler has faith that his 31-year-old former rival can do the same.

“That’s where I was, man,” Chandler said. “People wrote me off. We just started to talk about the Eddie Alvarez fight six years ago — people put Chandler up in the top three in the world: ‘Yeah, I want to him fight Benson Henderson, UFC champ. We want to see him in the UFC. We want to see him at No. 1, I think this guy can go all the way.’ And then, fast forward two years later, I lose three fights in a row: ‘This guy sucks. He’s a complete washed up has-been. Go get a day job.’

“And now here I am again, on the biggest show in MMA media. So I continue to win and lose and win and lose, and in this game, nobody can be perfect. You’re continuing to just fight your previous self and your own limitations inside your mind. That’s what it is, and the life of a fighter is a hard one. It’s not an easy one. And it’s trying. And it’ll beat you to your knee if you’ll let it. It’s a tough life, but man, you’ve just got to keep your head up and keep moving forward.”

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