Michael Chandler believes he might be able to “entice” Khabib Nurmagomedov out of retirement if he employs the right strategy in his UFC debut.
Chandler, the former Bellator lightweight champion, is slated to make his first steps into the Octagon at UFC 257, when he’ll take on New Zealand’s Dan Hooker.
Chandler had been linked to several other opponents on several other dates, but seems content with the matchup he eventually got.
At the risk of making Dan Hooker feel like he was the last possible option, obviously we worked on some other things,” Chandler told MMA Fighting. “Since the day that I signed, Oct. 24 was going to be the date. It was offered to [Dustin] Poirier, it was offered to [Tony] Ferguson, lo and behold they both turn it down and I become the backup [for Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje], which is completely fine. Then we shifted our focus to this card, Jan. 23, months ago and the name, the opponent was going to be Tony Ferguson.
“For some reason, he didn’t want to be on this Jan. 23 card,” Chandler added. “Basically he said no, said nothing, I was home, I wasn’t in fight camp and he calls me out on short notice to fight him in December. He takes a short notice fight against Charles Oliveira. He loses to Oliveira. Oliveira’s now No. 3.
“Then we shifted gears,” Chandler continued. “Hooker’s always one of the names that was thrown around and now it’s finally booked and I’m glad it’s booked. He’s ranked No. 6, he’s in the upper echelon of the top 10. It’s a good introductory fight to show the UFC fans who I am. Go out there, get a win on the biggest card of 2021.”
While Hooker isn’t the first fighter Chandler expected to fight in his UFC debut, he believes it’s a tough test, and that if he employs the right strategy, he might be able to coax Nurmagomedov out of retirement.
Nurmagomedov, one of the best grapplers in MMA, retired after a submission win over Justin Gaethje in October. Chandler suspects that if he really shows off his wrestling against Hooker, Nurmagomedov might be compelled to return for one more fight.
“I want to put a stamp on my introduction for who I am to the UFC fans by finishing Dan Hooker or dominating him,” Chandler said. “It really puts me in a position to where maybe I get the winner of Conor-Poirier or I get the next title shot against Khabib.
“I think if I go out there and showcase my wrestling skills, too,” Chandler added. “I mean there’s no doubt I want to go out there and knock Dan Hooker out, but I also want to show the world my wrestling skills. I want to put a stamp on good old fashioned American wrestling. Maybe I can entice Khabib to come back for the U.S. American wrestling versus Russian Sambo and see if he can get to 30-0 and beat me — if he can.”
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