Breaking down McGregor vs. Chandler on TUF and in the Octagon

After knocking out Tony Ferguson at UFC 274 last May, Michael Chandler thought the UFC might be making the wrong decision by scheduling him to fight Conor McGregor.

Instead, the opportunity to work out with “The Ultimate Fighter” helped set the mega-boy in motion later this year.

“If Hunter Campbell and Dana White momentarily err in their judgment and give the title shot to someone else, I think of one dude,” Chandler shouted after winning last spring in Phoenix. “Conor McGregor, you have to come back and fight somebody. I’m the most interesting lightweight on the planet.

“I want you to be the biggest, I want you to be the strongest, and I want you to be the best. You and me at £170 this summer, this fall, this winter. Scream at your boy!”

Chandler’s request has been granted as the duo will train against each other on The Ultimate Fighter reality show, which will air on Sportzshala and Sportzshala+ from May 30 to August 15, UFC president Dana White revealed on social media Saturday. After the season, the coaches are likely to fight at welterweight, the date and venue of the bout will be announced later.

Big questions remain now that the fight has tentatively begun. How do McGregor and Chandler fit together? What is at stake for the winner of the fight? Mark Raimondi looks ahead and takes it all apart.

Why is this fight for Conor McGregor now?

Now it’s easy. This is Conor McGregor, so the UFC wants him back ASAP. McGregor is out of the US Anti-Doping Agency drug testing pool and must return to it for six months before competing again, so filming The Ultimate Fighter during this period of ineligibility is a stroke of genius. The UFC is getting McGregor on TV to boost TUF’s ratings and promote the fight without stepping into the octagon. It makes sense.

This is a fight that all three sides wanted. Chandler clearly wanted this and has spoken about it on numerous occasions. McGregor and his team were also for it. Although Chandler is a skilled wrestler, he has shown a willingness to stand and punch, which is the kind of return fight that McGregor would want. Chandler is also relevant, having only lost to top lightweight fighters in exciting fights. If McGregor wins, it would be possible to throw him in for another title shot, which might not be the case if McGregor fought and beat someone like Tony Ferguson.

What is the difference between Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler?

This must be a fight. As noted above, Chandler is a great wrestler, but look at all of his fights in the UFC. He will continue to fight and trade – and succeed – with anyone. Chandler was a candidate for the fight of the year with Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier, and in 2022 he defeated Ferguson by knockout. Every time he stepped into the octagon, this guy was instantly in action, and most of those fights were against elite opponents. Chandler was probably one or two strokes away from stopping Charles Oliveira and becoming lightweight champion in 2021 if we haven’t forgotten.

McGregor probably wouldn’t want an outright slugfest. He relies on his precise, accurate and sharp punches to take Chandler out of action quickly. There was a time when Chandler’s chin was considered suspicious. However, in the UFC, he has more than proven that he can take heavy punches from some of the strongest fighters in the division. With that said, McGregor has more power than anyone Chandler has faced before, even if the fight is at welterweight.

On the other hand, Chandler has the advantage of having his fight potentially in McGregor’s head, which will open the door for Chandler to risk a hit. Another note: Chandler became a great kicker under coach Henry Hooft at Kill Cliff FC. McGregor is, of course, recovering from a broken leg. It will be interesting to see how many kicks go into Chandler’s game plan.

These are the two best fighters in the world. What is at stake for the winner?

If anyone had said three or four years ago that Chandler would one day fight McGregor, most would have laughed. Chandler lost the Bellator Lightweight title to Patricio “Pitbull” Freire in 2019 and rebounded by knocking out Sidney Outlaw in Japan. While Chandler was one of the best fighters in Bellator, fighting the biggest star in the history of the sport was out of the question. But Chandler never stopped working and knocked out former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson en route to free agency. He has become an incredible addition to the UFC due to his class, professionalism and understanding of how to promote himself. Chandler did everything the UFC asked him to do – the promotion loves him – and put on only the coolest fights.

This fight is a big win for Chandler, whether he wins or loses. If he wins, Chandler will return to the top of the lightweight hierarchy as one of the biggest stars in the division. A title fight might not be far off. For McGregor, a win over Chandler would be his best win ever since he stopped Eddie Alvarez in 2016 to win the lightweight title. It would revitalize his career and show people that he can not only recover from a severe injury, but also beat a top-level fighter. Whatever his next fight is, be it a title fight or another big name opponent, McGregor will be back in style. And that’s good for the UFC business.

How will The Ultimate Fighter affect this fight?

This can be very beneficial. In terms of promotion, this gives all parties a chance to turn it into a rivalry. So far, Chandler has been very respectful of McGregor, and vice versa. How will these two coexist at close range in Las Vegas while filming the show? All attention will be focused on the reality show, which will be broadcast all summer.

The two men will also gain different knowledge about each other during the show. There is no way around this. Right now they are strangers and have probably never spoken or interacted with each other. That will change here in a few weeks, and these interactions – or confrontations, if it comes down to it – will help determine how the preparation and actual combat will go. Also, don’t assume that both won’t train while filming the show, or that both fighters’ trainers won’t keep an eye on what the other is doing. This should make for exciting TV and exciting combat.


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