Chandler was signed by the UFC after his contract with Bellator expired, a promotion he spent nine years with and had three championship reigns. He had hoped to face Dustin Poirier, 31, or Tony Ferguson, 36, on Fight Island – but neither came to fruition.
Instead, the 34-year-old accepted an offer from UFC president Dana White to be a substitute for Saturday night’s massive fight – with it coming the possibility of an immediate title shot.
In an interview with BT Sport, Chandler explained how his role this weekend came about: “I wanted to prove to Dana White right away and the UFC fans right away and the UFC brass, everyone who is involved in the greatest mixed martial arts promotion in the world – who Michael Chandler is.
Michael Chandler explains the process of preparing to be the substitute fighter
Chandler now finds himself out in the Middle East, hoping he’ll be able to compete on Fight Island this weekend.
Despite Gaethje, 31, and Nurmagomedov, 32, successfully making weight, Chandler knows now more than ever that opportunities can arise at any moment.
He said: “If there ever was a year that you’re the alternate on one of the biggest lightweight fights in UFC history, 2020 is the right year to be sitting right here.”
Chandler beat the odds and made believers out of the sceptics as he won nine straight fights in the cage before beating Eddie Alvarez for the Bellator lightweight title.
With only five defeats in his 26 fights, it looked as though the American would become one of the best to have never fought in the UFC.
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.
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