Bellator MMA lightweight champion Michael Chandler recognizes the task in front of him heading into his next 155-pound title defense.
Chandler will put his belt on the line against the relatively unheralded Brent Primus in a featured bout at the California-based promotion’s pay-per-view event in New York on June 24. While Chandler is the known commodity, a two-time champion with a string of big fights under his belt, he once was in a position similar to that of Primus (online sportsbooks).
The former University of Missouri wrestling champion capitalized on his opportunity, as he submitted then lightweight king Eddie Alvarez in the fourth round of their bout at Bellator 58 in November 2011. It is a fight that still ranks among the best in promotion history and established Chandler as a star and perennial contender. While the 30-year-old champion has interests beyond the lightweight division, he must first get past Primus, a Sports Lab-trained fighter with a 7-0 career mark.
“I’m in this sport to get the biggest fights I possibly can,” Chandler said during a press conference in New York on Tuesday. “Case in point: We’re here at Madison Square Garden. This is an amazing opportunity against an amazing opponent, a guy who’s young, who’s hungry. Five years ago I was in the exact position that he is. You’re young, you’re hungry, you’re undefeated. You get the opportunity to fight the world champion, and stamp your name in the ranks of the world. I know I have a tough test ahead of me.”
Should Chandler take care of business against Primus, he is interested in moving up a weight class to test himself at 170 pounds. With recent free-agent acquisitions such as Lorenz Larkin and Rory MacDonald joining standouts such as reigning champ Douglas Lima and Paul Daley, welterweight could be Bellator MMA’s strongest division.
“…I’m large enough to fight up there at welterweight. I talk to [Bellator President Scott Coker] all the time and he’s assuring me that he’s continuing to go after guys. I have a lot of guys on my radar that I would love to fight,” Chandler said. “You’re just gonna keep seeing more and more guys coming over. It’s exciting time to be in my position. It’s an exciting time to be fighting in Bellator. June 24 is going to be another name for me to stamp my name on the lightweight division and we’ll see where we go from there.”
If Chandler doesn’t move up, there are other possibilities as well, including a showdown with ex-featherweight champion Patricio Freire. Chandler has history with the “Pitbull” family, as he owns a pair of victories over older brother Patricky Freire, including a brutal first-round knockout to claim the vacant lightweight crown last June.
“…I definitely have aspirations of possibly going up, or calling out other guys in lighter weight classes,” Chandler said. “I know Patricio ‘Pitbull’ hates me with a passion. So that’s a good fight possibly. We’ll see. Either way, I’m excited.”