The two lightweights are scheduled to meet at UFC 268 on Nov. 6 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Following the announcement of the fight, Chandler caused a minor stir last month when he said that the bout may be in jeopardy because of new COVID-19 vaccination mandates implemented by the state of New York which require patrons to show proof of vaccination upon entering gyms, restaurants, and indoor entertainment venues.
Chandler said he was not vaccinated and did not plan to be vaccinated by Nov. 6. He initially noted that he was not going to receive the vaccine “until it’s 100 percent FDA approved,” however he later backtracked on those comments after the FDA approved several of the most common COVID-19 vaccines.
As it turned out though, it didn’t even matter — New York’s new vaccination mandates didn’t apply to Chandler anyway, and Gaethje isn’t sure why his opponent made a such big fuss over the situation to begin with.
“I thought he was just seeking attention,” Gaethje said recently on UFC Unfiltered.
“At the end of the day, that’s private information, for one. Like, you don’t even need to talk about that because Dana White is going to handle it.”
Gaethje is currently the No. 3-ranked lightweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings, while Chandler is sitting at No. 5.
Gaethje hasn’t fought since his Oct. 2020 title loss to former UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254, however he remains a top contender in the promotion’s stacked 155-pound division. And he’s excited by the stakes he sees that could be up for grabs in his looming showdown against Chandler.
“I think before he fought Dan Hooker, coming from Bellator, there wasn’t a lot that he brought to the table,” Gaethje said of Chandler. “But now with knocking Dan Hooker out, having a great fight against Oliveira, he’s kind of proven that he belongs here.
“And ultimately for me, I need one win to fight for the title, to fight [Charles] Oliveira and [Dustin] Poirier, and that’s my goal. And this is a huge fight, this is a dangerous fight. He’s super explosive, athletic, he’s dangerous. But I think it’s a great matchup for me.”
The mind games have already begun between the two men. Last month, Chandler challenged Gaethje in the comments of an Instagram post to meet him in the center of the cage at UFC 268. “First one to take a backward step is a timid soul,” Chandler wrote.
But Gaethje’s reputation as one of the most exciting fighters in UFC history precedes him, and he’s not about to be swayed by meaningless pre-fight banter.
“He’s not going to determine how I fight,” Gaethje said.
“He says the first one to take a step back is a timid soul — there’s not one thing he could say that’s going to affect the way that I approach this fight or the way that I approach [him]. I will take a step backwards. He can shove it up his ass. When you’re going to see a timid soul is when I start kicking him and he’s going to start shooting for legs and trying to wrestle, and that would be his definition of a b*tch, 100 percent. And that’s what we’ll see. I think that’s midway through the first round.”