A few years ago losing in just 61 seconds to Patricio “Pitbull” Freire would have left Michael Chandler reeling in a pit of despair.
The fight cost Chandler his Bellator lightweight title as he squared off with the Brazilian in a rare champion versus champion showdown. It was a disappointing outcome after such a heated rivalry led to the fight but Chandler’s reaction to the loss was much different than how he handed his first professional defeat back in 2013 when he fell in a split decision to Eddie Alvarez.
“When I lost my first fight to Eddie Alvarez, I immediately forgot how good I was and I stuck my head in the sand and wasn’t taking phone calls from all the MMA media,” Chandler explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “It was an awesome celebration of mixed martial arts. Me and Eddie went out there and put our hearts on the line and it was a “Fight of the Year” candidate, but I didn’t go to the World MMA Awards because I was embarrassed that I lost.
“I wasn’t taking interviews because I was embarrassed that I lost. I didn’t go and train and I wasn’t posting on social media because I was embarrassed that I lost. That led to two more subsequent losses because I couldn’t get out of my own head. I thought that failure was final instead of realizing that failure is just a part of this journey and you can’t get to the top of the mountain without your feet slipping a couple of times.”
Rather than get mired in the emotions surrounding a tough loss, Chandler just realized that he got caught, which is exactly how he’s finished numerous opponents of his own in the past.
In this particular instance, Chandler played the nail instead of the hammer but unlike the string of fights that saw him drop three in a row between 2013 and 2014, he’s figured out that losses are just part of the sport.
“I zigged when I should have zagged,” Chandler said about the loss. “That’s the beauty of this sport. I’ve knocked out guys just like that. Caught them with the first punch and boom fight is over before it even started. I was able to enjoy that. I was able to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
“I’ve done that 10 times in my career, but I can’t enjoy all that, all the spoils and the fruits of that labor and that outcome without accepting with four ounce gloves, fighting fire with fire, you throw a jab and he throws a well-timed overhand right, the fight was over before it started. There’s not much you can take from it.”
Rather than being consumed by a thirst for vengeance, Chandler has largely just moved on from the loss, and he’s not making a hard charge towards a rematch unless it just happens organically.
“I’ve always said I’m not necessarily the guy who wants revenge or wants that fight back,” Chandler said. “Patricio’s doing his thing. I wish him best of luck in the tournament. I think he’s going to get beat up by my boy Adam Borics but we’ll see what happens.
“The only fight I’ve ever wanted another crack at was that Eddie Alvarez fight. That’s a fight the fans want to see. That’s a trilogy that needs to happen. That’s the only fight I’ve ever really wanted back. Patricio can do his thing.”
Chandler admits he was “let down” by the change of opponents but really this particular fight was more about the stage than the opponent.
Bellator will be co-promoting a pair of cards alongside RIZIN with two shows taking place in Japan with Chandler taking on Outlaw in the co-main event on Dec. 29.
“I was going to take this opportunity no matter what,” Chandler explained. “We’ve got the Mohegan Sun Tribe governing body, I got a call from them a couple of days ago saying you’ve got 36 hours to go pee in a cup at Quest Diagnostics because we’re doing out of competition drug testing. So this is a good event. This is an advancement in the sport.
“This is one of the top organizations in the sport co-promoting with another top organization. It’s awesome to be a part of it. I couldn’t be happier, no matter who it’s against. This is one of those bucket list fights. Fighting in front of 45,000 fans with the culture and the nostalgia and the same place where all the great PRIDE fights happened, it’s a great opportunity.”
As far as the future goes, Chandler hopes to close out 2019 with a win against Outlaw. Then he’ll start looking towards 2020, where he will likely engage in another contract negotiation that will ultimately determine what comes next for him.
“Obviously close out 2019 and then in 2020, who knows,” Chandler said. “We’ll have another fight, we’ll have some contract negotiations and we’ll figure out what is next for me and my future and what the next couple of years look like and the second half of my career looks like.”