Michael Chandler is a veteran of the weight-cutting process, having wrestled and fought his whole life, and he’s tired of seeing his peers make a mess of it.
The two-time Bellator lightweight champion battles Goiti Yamauchi at Bellator 192 this Saturday at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., where the California State Athletic Commission has been at the forefront of proposing weight-cutting reforms. Last May, the CSAC passed a 10-point plan intended to curb the dangerous measures that fighters will often utilize to make weight and “game the system”.
These changes, which included more extensive monitoring of a fighter’s weight before and after they compete, as well as their level of dehydration, have not been implemented in every state, and 2017 saw several high-profile fighters in jeopardy around weigh-in time.
UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier almost came in heavy for his title fight with Anthony Johnson last April, but was able to “miraculously” shed the extra poundage in a matter of minutes with the help of a towel. The UFC 209 event was not so lucky, as it’s highly anticipated co-main event grudge match between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov was canceled when Nurmagomedov was hospitalized due to medical issues related to his weight cut.
Those were just two of seemingly dozens of examples of struggles with the scale in the UFC last year, which doesn’t include the harrowing tale of Legacy Fighting Alliance competitor C.J. Hancock, who actually had to be resuscitated after passing out during a fight in November. Afterwards, Hancock admitted that he cut somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 pounds for the welterweight bout.
All of that drama has left many wondering what other rules can be put in place to prevent fighters from harming themselves to make weight, but Chandler is a firm believer that the lion’s share of the responsibility lies in the hands of the athletes themselves.
“So common knowledge in the infancy of this sport with a bunch of non-disciplined people — just because Khabib has a problem making weight, or just because all these guys have missed weight, or just because we put a huge emphasis because people are crying and people are passing out and people are puking and people are doing this and doing that, it’s a bunch of people who are afraid of being disciplined for eight weeks,” Chandler said.
“I don’t have a problem making weight because I’m the most disciplined person you’ve ever talked to. I’m the most disciplined person in mixed martial arts. I haven’t enjoyed a meal in eight weeks. And that’s the kind of discipline you have to have. That’s the kind of regimen, that’s the kind of diet, that’s the kind of plan that you have to put in place. Now, if I was going to be like 90 percent of other fighters, I’d drink up and eat pizza and eat fast food and miss meals and miss my supplements and not put a huge emphasis on my diet until about three weeks before, and then realize, ‘Okay, I’m carrying too much fat and not enough muscle and I haven’t made the proper step from week eight down to week one and I have a problem making weight.’ And people are like, ‘Oh God, he must be big for the weight class.’ No, I’m big for the weight class but I never have once came close to missing weight.”
Chandler specifically mentioned Nurmagomedov as an example due to the fact that he’s been around Nurmagomedov and has a general idea of how their physiques compare. “The Eagle” has also been widely scrutinized for his history of withdrawing from fights due to various maladies.
However, this past December, in his first fight since the UFC 209 debacle, Nurmagomedov came in at 155.5 pounds to make the lightweight limit (with the one-pound allowance). Chandler wasn’t surprised at Nurmagomedov’s success, and if anything the turnaround only confirmed rumors that Chandler had heard about the Russian fighter’s lack of discipline when it came to dieting in the past.
“I’ve seen Khabib, I’ve met him in real life, I’ve seen he’s a big lightweight, so I’m not going to take anything away from him and act like this weight cut isn’t something that’s going to be challenging,” Chandler said. “But I’ve talked to people in his training camp, and the difference between this last training camp, which he made weight, I’ve asked deep questions where it’s like, ‘Is he going to make weight? Is he going to be healthy?’ And numerous people have been like, ‘Trust me, he changed this. Trust me, he changed that.’
“Once again, life is pretty darn easy. It’s black and white, it’s A plus B equals C. If you stick to a plan, you surround yourself with the right people and you’re disciplined enough to see something through and you make a commitment to something and you make a lifestyle change, anything is possible. And we just saw that with him. He missed weight two out of the last three fights and now he makes weight because he actually put an emphasis on it, he actually cared, he was actually a professional.”
“And it’s also about body fat too,” Chandler continued. “You can look at him in his last fight and he’s still carrying probably two-percent more body fat than I am. When I step on the scale and you see how lean I am, that’s a product of eight weeks of doing it right. He could still learn a thing or two, but I’m not here to coach people.”
Weight management will remain crucial for Chandler as he moves into the next phase of his career, where he sees himself pursuing bouts outside of the lightweight division. He spoke about wanting to move up to 170 pounds, specifically mentioning Paul Daley as an exciting matchup should he be unable to book a fight with Bellator’s elite welterweight trio of Douglas Lima, Rory MacDonald, and Andrey Koreshkov. And at 145, an intriguing encounter with featherweight champ Patricio Freire awaits, given that Chandler has twice beaten his brother Patricky.
“I would love to put both ‘Pitbull’ brothers on a leash,” said Chandler.
Bellator president Scott Coker has also announced that he intends to match the winner of the Chandler vs. Yamauchi bout with lightweight champion Brent Primus, who took the title from Chandler last June by TKO when Chandler suffered an ankle injury in the first round of their fight.
Suffice to say, Chandler’s weight cut mastery leaves him with plenty of options heading into 2018.