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Michael Chandler: Relationship with TUF 31 rival Conor McGregor not bad ‘for a guy whose face you want to rip off’

UFC 257: Poirier v McGregor
Michael Chandler
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Michael Chandler gets along well with Conor McGregor, though he’s clearly relishing the opportunity to throw down with the former two-division UFC champion.

Fans will soon have plenty of opportunities to see Chandler and McGregor trade verbal shots (and maybe even some physical ones) with The Ultimate Fighter 31 premiering Tuesday night. The UFC stars serve as opposing coaches on the show and are expected to meet in a welterweight contest on a date still to be determined.

In a pre-show YouTube video, Chandler elaborated on how the dynamic between he and McGregor developed during filming.

“It’s been all over the internet, obviously you guys saw the push, the shove, the face shove heard around the world, saw around the world, and the ‘You’ll do what you’re told’ line that Conor has already put out. … Conor McGregor and I, I think have a pretty good relationship,” Chandler said. “As good of a relationship as you can for a guy whose face you want to rip off. He is a tough competitor. He is a guy who is confident and believes in himself more than anybody that you may see out there. That’s how he carries himself, that is his brand, that is ‘Notorious’ Conor McGregor, that is his full-on persona.

“So ultimately, he looks at me as a threat because we’re going to fight each other. He looks at me as a threat on this show, he doesn’t want to lose, he wants Team McGregor to win. He’s got his guys that he has built bonds with. Maybe I beat one of his guys, what does that well up inside of him? What kind of anger does that well up inside of him? Maybe his guy beats my guy. What kind of pride and braggadocious confidence and really throw salt in the wound does that well up inside Conor, because Conor’s good at all of that stuff?”

Chandler has hit the ground running since joining the UFC in 2021, earning two Fight of the Night awards and two Performance of the Night bonuses in just five appearances for the promotion. The three-time Bellator lightweight champion has had mixed results, going just 2-3 in those fights, but the wars he’s engaged in against elite competition have continued to endear him to fans and the front office.

He’s also known for being one of the more comfortable fighters on the mic, a skill that helped him to deal with McGregor on TUF 31.

“Conor likes to talk, he likes to get in your head,” Chandler said. “Conor likes to be the guy who establishes dominance both physically, the way that he stands the way that he walks, but also linguistically. The things that he says, the verbal jiu-jitsu, if you will. So Conor and I had our moments, both up and down, a lot of respect. I think I respect the heck out of him as competitor, I think he respects me as a competitor. He said some complimentary things about me, I say complimentary things about him as well.

“We’ve also said where we are very bold in our prediction. He believes that he’s going to slice right through me. He believes that he’s a little bit too spicy, a little bit too dicey. I said I’m going to bludgeon him with my hands. I think my Mystic Mike prediction is that I knock him out in the second round. I go out there, I get in his face, I put the foot on the gas early as I always do. I believe I wear him down in the first and he wilts and I knock him out in the second.”

When their fight is eventually made official, don’t expect Chandler to ramp up the trash talk too much as it appears that his shared experience McGregor was overall positive.

“Ultimately, it all boils down to there’s a lot of respect between Conor and I, but that doesn’t mean that we have to like each other at every turn,” Chandler said. “We could have a really great day and then the next day it’s like, ‘Hey man, it’s fight day. Don’t talk to me.’ ‘Hey man, I’m dealing with this with my guy, don’t talk to me.’

“So it was a season that had so many different scenarios that made you act differently than you might have thought you would and that was kind of my big thing going into it. I don’t know how I’m going to react, respond, and what you saw in some of these teasers was us responding or us reacting in a certain way and it’s all water under the bridge and we had a good time.”

The TUF 31 season premiere airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+.

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