Former Bellator MMA champion Michael Chandler believes he's deserving of a UFC lightweight title shot but says he's willing to take a fight in order to prove it.
Chandler (21-5) signed with the UFC this month, bringing a 10-year relationship with Bellator to an end. The 34-year-old was a former three-time lightweight champion in Bellator, and has already been pegged as a backup for the UFC's title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) and Justin Gaethje (22-2) at UFC 254 on Oct. 24.
The UFC's decision to book Chandler as the backup to that fight, which will take place in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, came as somewhat of a surprise, as the promotion initially targeted a fight between Tony Ferguson and Dustin Poirier on the same card. That matchup failed to happen due to contract negotiations, however, and Chandler said he was willing to fight either one.
"[UFC president Dana White] asked me if I would be ready to go on Oct. 24. I said, 'Sure, I'll be ready Sept. 24,'" Chandler told ESPN. "He said, 'OK, we're gonna start working on some things. Would you fight [Ferguson or Poirier]?' Absolutely. 'Would you be a backup for Khabib, Gaethje?' Absolutely. 'Would you fight a Top 5?' Absolutely.
"'Michael, will you do anything in the world because you're down to do it?' I said, 'Yeah, man. I'm down to do it. I'm not here for a long time, I'm here for a good time. Let's have some fun.'"
Chandler said he wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of the UFC booking him a fight between now and Oct. 24 -- either against Ferguson, Porier or another highly ranked opponent -- although White recently told ESPN the company does not intend to do so.
When asked whether he's confident his status as the No. 1 lightweight contender would still apply if he doesn't compete on Oct. 24, Chandler said he's ready to fight for a title but is leaving that decision up to his new promoter.
"I've been the No. 1 contender since 2009 in my mind, because that's when I came into this sport," Chandler said. "Listen, Dana is in charge of the UFC and who is the No. 1 contender ... If it works out it does, if it doesn't it doesn't. I'll step into the cage with anybody the UFC wants me to, preferably in the Top 5 because I think I've earned that."
For the record, Chandler said he believes Gaethje is the biggest threat yet to Nurmagomedov's perfect record, however, he predicts Nurmagomedov will retain his title.