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Michael Chandler reacts to Islam Makhachev calling him out after UFC Vegas 31: ‘I think wrestling beats sambo’

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UFC 262 Weigh-in Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Michael Chandler has always welcomed call outs from potential opponents and that includes UFC Vegas 31 main event winner Islam Makhachev.

Following a lopsided win over Thiago Moises on Saturday night, Makhachev seemingly asked to fight just about everybody ranked in the UFC lightweight division but he took special interest in Chandler, who was serving as an analyst for the event on ESPN.

“I see here Michael Chandler, why not? Let’s go Chandler,” Makhachev said backstage at UFC Vegas 31. “You come for easy fight in the UFC? No, you come from Bellator, we want to give you a hard time. Let’s do this. Chandler, if you hear me, let’s do this. You come from Bellator, I want to check your skills.”

In response, Chandler complimented Makhachev on a job well done as he put on a stellar performance in his first UFC main event while extending his current win streak to eight fights in a row.

Chandler also couldn’t help but smile when hearing his name mentioned as Makhachev took full advantage of having a captive audience at his attention following such an impressive victory over Moises.

“Slick little call out right there,” Chandler said when answering Makhachev on the UFC Vegas 31 post fight show. “He did what he said he was going to do tonight and he did what he needed to do tonight, which was go out there and put a big stamp on his performance. Now he’s doing what he needs to do as well. He’s sitting at No. 9, he wants to say as many names as he possibly can. Slick little call out.

“The man impressed tonight. I’ve got to take my fighter hat off, be the analyst tonight, he did a phenomenal job against a very tough man. Kid’s got a bright future, we’ll see what happens.”

Of course Chandler wasn’t going to get off quite that easily as fellow analyst Michael Chiesa pushed him a little bit harder while asking him to break down a possible style matchup with Makhachev.

While Chandler has earned a reputation for his highlight reel knockouts and jaw-dropping Fight of the Night kind of performances, he’s also a former college wrestler with a wealth of grappling experience at his disposal.

As for Makhachev, he comes from the Khabib Nurmagomedov school of fighting where he loves to take his opponents to the ground and smash them into oblivion but could he do that against Chandler?

“I’m a homer when it comes to wrestling,” Chandler explained. I think wrestling beats everything. I think wrestling beats judo, [Brazilian jiu-jitsu], I think it beats sambo but that’s just me being a homer. But what Islam Makhachev does is he gets you to these positions and he puts you in a position where you can’t really move. Thiago Moises has phenomenal chain grappling. We’ve seen him go all over the place, up, down, do flips, roll, sweep. He wasn’t able to do a lot of those things. The thing that Islam does best is he neutralizes guys. When you neutralize a guy, it’s not just physical. It’s mental. It’s emotional. It’s cardio. He sucks the life out of guys.

“Can he push the pace for that long? He showed tonight he can get a finish later in the rounds. I think wrestling beats sambo. I think wrestling beats every other ground martial art. Maybe someday we’ll see.”

Doing his best not to take away a well-deserved spotlight from Makhachev on his night, Chandler deferred to the potential surrounding the Russian lightweight with a limitless amount of possibilities ahead of him now that he’s established himself as one of the best in the world.

“Khabib said he thinks he’s the future of the division,” Chandler said about Makhachev. “So only time will tell. Either way, the man’s got a bright future.”