UFC lightweight Michael Chandler explained how he is preparing for his role as the backup fighter for this main event of Saturday’s UFC 254.
Chandler recently signed with the UFC as a free agent following a spectacular run in Bellator where he was a three-time lightweight champion in the promotion. UFC president Dana White admitted that a five-minute phone call with Chandler when he became a free agent was enough to convince him he belonged in the UFC. Not only that but also maybe even get a title shot if anything happens to the headliners of this weekend’s UFC 254.
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has seen several of his fights fall through in the past, and the UFC doesn’t want to take a chance of losing the main event with interim champ Justin Gaethje. So the promotion signed Chandler and is paying him to be the backup fighter. The UFC has hired backup fighters in the past, but this has to be the first time they have given the role to a fighter who is making his Octagon debut.
Speaking to TMZ Sports, Chandler spoke about his role as a backup and how he is preparing for what could potentially be a very chaotic couple of days.
“It’s a precarious situation, you know, because people ask me, and my answer is I don’t want bad luck to befall Khabib or Gaethje because I respect them a ton. I don’t want bad luck to befall the UFC because they put a ton of money to promote and resources behind this title fight happening. But for this big fight, the final title fight on Fight Island for the foreseeable future, they needed someone as an insurance policy, as a back-up plan, in case somebody fell off the card. So I’ve said I have to be ready,” Chandler said.
“At this point, I still don’t know if I’m weighing in and then waiting for Khabib and Gaethje to make weight and I’m good, or if the next morning I gotta still train and warm-up as though I’m going to show up to the arena and fight on Saturday night. I don’t know if I’m going to the arena, warm-up, and get my hands wrapped until Khabib and Gaethje actually step into that cage and that cage door locks and Bruce Buffer’s announcing them. I don’t know. So at this point, I’m just focused on fight week. The UFC will let me know pretty darn soon. At the end of my day, it’s none of my business. I signed the dotted one saying I would be the alternate. I am the alternate until I am needed no more.”
Chandler signed with the UFC fresh off of back-to-back stunning knockout wins over Benson Henderson and Sidney Outlaw in Bellator. Although for Chandler it would be ideal if he did get to fight this weekend, he should be able to get another fighter booked in short order if he doesn’t, potentially against long-time top contender Tony Ferguson.
What do you think about Michael Chandler being the backup for the UFC 254 main event?