UFC lightweight title contender Michael Chandler believes he and Dustin Poirier should next fight for the belt. In a perfect world, current champ Khabib Nurmagomedov will be down the road.
Chandler on Wednesday told Jim Rome a matchup with Poirier “is definitely a fight that interests me” after a near-miss at UFC 254, where he served as a backup fighter after Poirier balked at the payday offered to fight the former Bellator champ.
Chandler made a huge splash in his UFC 257 octagon debut and used his victory speech to cut a promo on Nurmagomedov. But with the champ’s decision to retire looking final, he is angling to fight Poirier for the vacant belt.
“At this point, the performances that we both put on warrant that next title shot,” Chandler said. “Khabib Nurmagomedov is the greatest to ever do it. But we all know he’s stepping away. Let’s let him step away, let’s relinquish the belt, let’s put it on the line between me and Dustin in the next quarter, and I promise you after that fight, I will be the UFC champion.”
Chandler’s uphill battle to face Poirier at UFC 254 may have gotten worse after UFC 257. Poirier guaranteed the impressive newcomer wouldn’t be his next opponent after a second-round knockout of Conor McGregor in the headliner of this past Saturday’s pay-per-view event.
“It’s just my feelings toward the division and the sport,” Poirier explained. “I lost to Khabib, I came out and put on a ‘Fight of the Year’ for you guys, got my hand raised against a top-five opponent after that. Then I come in there and Khabib doesn’t want to come back, then I knock out one of the biggest fights you can get. I knock this guy out, too. Khabib reiterates he doesn’t want to fight any more – dude, I’m the champ. I’m not going to fight, some – and like I said, respect to Chandler – a new guy to the UFC who just beat a guy that’s coming off a loss that I just beat for the belt. That’s not exciting to me.”
Whether Poirier’s stance shifts in the face of a better offer, or other pressures applied by the UFC, remains to be seen. Chandler’s No. 1 priority is of course capturing the belt, and Poirier is the man to beat.
After that, Chandler can think about another feather in his cap – breaking Nurmagomedov’s unbeaten streak. The current UFC lightweight champ retired at 29-0 after defeating interim champ Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, and he reportedly held fast to his decision in a meeting with UFC President Dana White. All signs point to the belt going up for grabs, though the ultimate timeline for that happening rests with the promotion.
Chandler believes he has what it takes to beat Nurmagomedov and hopes the unbeaten fighter makes a comeback after getting a taste of retired life.
“Maybe I defend the title one time, and maybe [Nurmagomedov] gets bored and comes back,” Chandler said. “That would be best-case scenario.”
Like White, Chandler sees the goal of 30-0 as a challenge too tempting for “The Eagle” to decline forever.
“He’s gotta come back and he’s got to beat somebody in his quest for 30-0, so why not try to beat me?” Chandler said of Nurmagomedov.