Two years after he claimed the Bellator lightweight championship from Eddie Alvarez, current titleholder Michael Chandler looks to defend his belt against the very man he beat for it on Saturday at Bellator 106 at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, Calif.
Speaking to MMAWeekly.com during his final preparations, Chandler discussed Saturday’s event move from Pay-Per-View to a free telecast on Spike TV, the hype surrounding the bout, and his plans to defeat Alvarez a second time and prove once and for all that he is one of the top lightweights in the world.
MMAWeekly.com: Firstly, Michael, with the injury to Tito Ortiz, it looked like Saturday’s event might be in jeopardy before being moved from PPV to live on Spike TV. Did any of that affect you or were you able to keep focused on your task at hand?
Michael Chandler: I think it all cleared up pretty quick. I’m sure Bellator had a lot more to deal with than me. I’m still fighting the same night, the same place and the same opponent; so it’s the same to me. For something being cancelled like a PPV is unfortunate for Bellator, but they as an organization will bounce back and will do a bigger and better PPV in the future, and I’m looking forward to that. But for me it’s the same.
MMAWeekly.com: Bellator and Spike TV have shown a lot of support of this fight between yourself and Eddie Alvarez by promoting it heavily and having a 30-minute preview show specifically geared towards your bout air the week of the fight. What do you think about all the promotion that they’ve been putting into your match-up?
Michael Chandler: It’s great. That’s the beauty of being a part of Viacom. Bellator is a great organization and this is the kind of thing that MMA fighters dream of: being given the opportunity to be on Spike TV with millions of people capable of watching. With “Unfinished Business,” it was a cool thing being able to get Eddie’s perspective and my perspective and watch the fight again.
MMAWeekly.com: Having said that, how difficult is it, if at all, to not get caught up in all the hype surrounding the rematch?
Michael Chandler: Bellator and Spike work with me, and if they want me to do go do a three-day shoot somewhere and I tell them I can’t because training is my number one priority, they’ll come to me or turn a three-day shoot into a one-day shoot for me. It’s all part of the process and I look forward to everything that Bellator and Spike has me doing, but I keep the main thing as the main thing, which is showing up on Saturday night and defending the belt.
MMAWeekly.com: It’ll be almost two years to the day since you defeated Alvarez for the title. How different of a fighter would you say you are now compared to then?
Michael Chandler: I’ve grown so much as a fighter and I’ve come so far. When I first fought Eddie, I was just two years into the sport, and if you ask anybody in any sport, it will take you a while to adjust to the new competition and all that kind of stuff and I was very new and green in the sport when I won that night. Now I feel with a whole two years older, training and just being in the cage longer, it’s all part of the maturation process I’ve gone through and I feel more a veteran of the sport than I did two years ago.
I want to go out there and put on a different performance, a better performance, a more crisp and technical performance, one in which the fans can watch and say, “Wow, this guy must be doing something right and working incredibly hard because it’s showing in his performance.”
MMAWeekly.com: Do you take anything from that previous fight and apply it to Saturday’s rematch or do you look at this fight as completely new?
Michael Chandler: I think a lot of it is in the past. I never try to hang my hat on in what I’ve done in the past. If anything, winning that title and getting ranked in the Top 10, and having people throw my name in the mix of the top lightweights in the world, it’s made me work harder.
In that last fight, I was very sloppy, very young, very green in the sport, but at the end of the day I was a better competitor. I pushed the pace more, I didn’t break whenever he tried to break me, and he broke in the fourth (round). My competitive edge is there, and he has that to kind of look back on know that he conceded to me, and in my mind, I’ve become a better competitor since then, so I’m just excited to go out there and continue to see how hard I’ve been working pays off.
MMAWeekly.com: So at the end of the day does the strategy of pushing him till he breaks really change at all?
Michael Chandler: That’s my goal every single fight. We all train hard and put in a certain amount of time and do things relatively right, but I pride myself on working the hardest and making the best decisions possible. Being the most disciplined guy, cutting my weight exactly right, not taking anything for granted for one day, that’s kind of how I feel and is my mentality in life.
I’m just going to go out there, get in his face, puts my hands on him, listen to my coaches and good things are going to happen when I show up to fight Saturday night.