Michael Chandler (top) will put his undefeated record on the line at Bellator 58. | Photo: Keith Mills
Michael Chandler neither dreads nor embraces failure. He merely views it as part of his chosen profession.
Chandler will challenge Bellator Fighting Championships lightweight titleholder Eddie Alvarez for his 155-pound crown at Bellator 58 on Saturday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla. The 25-year-old secured his title shot by winning Bellator’s Season 4 lightweight tournament with victories over Marcin Held, Lloyd Woodard and Patricky Freire.
“People fail, and failing is part of it,” Chandler said. “It’s not final; it’s the journey. I know that I want to be a world champion, but I wouldn’t consider it a failure necessarily -- but I would consider it a bump in a road -- if I don’t win the lightweight world championship. The platform that I will be put on, whether I win or not, that is the reason I am in this sport.”
An accomplished amateur wrestler, Chandler was a four-time NCAA qualifier at the University of Missouri. He has parlayed those skills into an unbeaten start to his professional MMA career. However, Alvarez will undoubtedly serve as his stiffest test to date.
“Eddie Alvarez is a great fighter,” Chandler said. “He’s got great hands. He puts on a show. He’s elusive, fast [and] strong. He’s a well-rounded fighter. Nobody in the previous tournament pushed Eddie. Eddie has basically just been bulldozing people and coming forward on them, and what he has done in his last couple of fights is what I envision in my mind: moving when he’s coming forward, not worrying about who the heck he is, what his name is or what he’s done.
“At the end of the day,” he added, “Eddie is a 155-pound man and I am a 155-pound man, and when that cage door closes, we have 25 minutes to figure out what is going to happen.”
Chandler likes the way he matches up with the champion.
“I am continuing to become a better mixed martial artist, but I am a grinder and a tough wrestler at heart,” he said. “I am not talking about takedowns or technique. I am talking about the mentality of always coming forward, always [getting] in your face, always bringing a fight to you, whether it looks pretty or it doesn’t; looking for takedowns, looking for punches, looking for the knockouts, looking for the submissions -- just constant pressure, taking Eddie to the deep waters and putting him in a situation that he hasn’t every really been in.”
Anchored at Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts in Las Vegas, Chandler wants to answer the questions that remain about him.
“I see this as we are all training hard with good training partners, but I think I have a lot to prove,” he said. “I am young, and I want people to start talking about me as if I am a threat. I want people to talk about me when they are talking about the top guys in the lightweight division around the world.
“Eddie has a lot of experience,” Chandler added. “He came out in one of his interviews and said I was not really a mixed martial artist, [that] I’m just a wrestler who is excited about the sport of MMA, which is his opinion. I haven’t had enough fights yet to prove that I’m not just a wrestler who is just excited about the sport of MMA, but I have been eating and sleeping the lifestyle of this sport. It’s my passion and I’m in this sport for one reason, and that is to be the world champ. I want to win that belt. I’ve had a ton of wrestling experience, and, in my opinion, that is the best experience you could have in the whole world. I’m prepared.”
Alvarez will not be an easy mountain to climb. The 27-year-old champion will enter the cage on a string of seven consecutive victories, the second longest such streak of his career. Still, Chandler remains ever confident.
“In the fight with Eddie Alvarez, I can’t wait for the moment when you know the fight is over and you know you won and you have it in the bag, whether you finish him or whatever; that feeling of relief and rest,” he said. “It’s going to be a thing of beauty when this fight is over, to know I got the win and I got the belt around my waist and I can go put it around my mom’s waist and I can go hang out with family and cut back and be champion and deserve some time off.”