(Photo via Bellator)
By Elias Cepeda
Throughout the UFC and Bellator’s highly-publicized bidding war over lightweight Eddie Alvarez, I couldn’t help but wonder what Michael Chandler felt about all this. There was Alvarez, hard sought-after and recognized as one of the best fighters not already in the UFC, and there was Chandler — the man who’d beaten him soundly in an incredible fight and took the Bellator title.
Chandler was the champion. Chandler had beaten Alvarez, yet his opponent was the one who had corporate giants fighting for him. I got a chance to speak with the Bellator lightweight champion as he heads into his rematch with Alvarez this Saturday at Bellator 106.
The 24-year-old fighter was philosophical as he looked back at being the overlooked champion. “Unfortunately it’s not a perfect world and fighters can’t just train and fight,” Chandler says of Alvarez’s legal battles.
“There’s all kinds of things that go around it. All that bickering…I try not to worry about all the outside stuff. People are going to say things and talk. You can read into things and they can affect you mentally. That’s no good for you at all. It’s never good to get caught up in all that. The reality and beauty of the situation is that we are professional athletes with a platform that people are going to hear and see. It’s good to be on a platform like that. It is something to keep me grounded and excited for November 2. I want to prove myself.”
Chandler cannot deny that it would be sweet to beat his more celebrated opponent once again. “Yeah, of course I’m excited,” he admits.
“He’s been in some contract disputes and there’s bad blood with the organization. People love to talk about that stuff. I just try to stay positive and train and fight and win. That isn’t always as exciting as bad blood and contract disputes.”
Chandler is confident that he’ll finish Alvarez again, and faster than he did two years ago. He does not count out the considerable abilities of his opponent, however.
“I can’t speak on [Alvarez's] improvement since our first fight. He’s had two great wins since we fought. He’s improved. He’s a veteran of a sport. You can’t forget he’s been in the sport for around a decade. He knows how to train and he knows how to show up and fight and come forward and put on a show,” Chandler explains.
The champion knows for a fact that he’s a better fighter than he was the first time he faced Alvarez, however. Most importantly, Chandler says he is more experienced.
“I’ve had two more years to improve,” he says.
“I was very green the first time we fought. I’ve matured as an MMA fighter. I feel more like a veteran than before, when I felt like a new guy. I’m better in every area. I’m just excited to go out there and show how how much I’ve improved.”