3 people Michael Chandler should fight instead of Conor McGregor

Michael Chandler isn't going to fight Conor McGregor at UFC 303.
UFC 262: Charles Oliveira v Michael Chandler
UFC 262: Charles Oliveira v Michael Chandler / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

After a long and illustrious career in Bellator, then-35-year-old, Michael Chandler arrived in the UFC in January 2021. Chandler’s first fight was scheduled against the ever-ready and dangerous Dan Hooker. It took Chandler a little over two minutes to dispatch Hooker, in a performance that would lead him to earn a shot at the lightweight title vs Charles Oliveira in just his second UFC fight. Chandlers’ rise in the UFC can be attributed to his overly aggressive fighting style and his eccentric professional wrestling style promos. At only 2-3 in his UFC career, he has fought only the best his weight class has to offer. In each of those losses he has shown flashes of winning by a dramatic finish, but inevitably succumbs to his brash style of kill or be killed. 

Chandlers’ saga with Conor McGregor has been somewhat fascinating, yet confusing. Sitting dormant while waiting for McGregor for almost two years since his last fight, Chandler has been holding out hope for an eventual shot at McGregor to add McGregor’s name to his already lengthy resume, and to net the prized McGregor fight night paycheck.

As the months have worn on since the initial McGregor vs. Chandler fight speculation began, the debate of whether Chandler is wasting his time and career by waiting for the McGregor fight has grown louder and louder. Since word of the fight falling through at UFC 303, the debate about whether Chandler should take another fight has reached an all-time high. If McGregor is ready to come back in a short time, then yes continue to wait. However, if the McGregor saga continues to play out and there are no signs of a fight on the horizon by the end of the summer, Chandler should strongly consider getting back inside the Octagon and resume his fighting career.

If Chandler does decide to forgo the McGregor fight for now, who should he fight? At 2-3 in the division, and almost two years of inactivity, a title shot versus the champion should be illegal to discuss. I don’t see the No. 1 lightweight contender Arman Tsarukyan stepping up to take on Chandler since he seems to be out for blood versus Islam Makhachev, and is somewhat guaranteed the next title shot. The same can be said about No. 2 ranked Charles Oliveira, who already has a submission win over Chandler, and seems be looking at new names for big-money fights.

That leaves three guys that make the most sense for Chandler to take on if he decides to fight by the end of 2024.

1. Mateusz Gamrot

If Chandler (who the UFC currently has ranked as the No. 6 lightweight) wants to get back on the title contention ladder to make an argument for a crack at the current champion, the best way to start the plea for a title shot would be taking out the guy who the UFC currently has ranked ahead of him as the No. 5 fighter, Mateusz Gamrot. While fans probably wouldn’t be clamoring over the matchup as it wouldn’t be the most notable name to take on, it would give Chandler a solid chance at a name that has been active in the division and against someone who is slowly knocking on the door for an eventual title fight.

Stylistically they match up pretty well, while Gamrot has shown he can slow down a fight and grind his opponent out for an anti-climatic decision victory using his wrestling, he has also shown he has power in his hands and a very technical grappling skill set that allows him to find the submission. This style plays into Chandler’s favor as he is always looking to stand and trade, and it would be intriguing to see how the strong wrestling abilities of both fighters factor into the fight.

2. Justin Gathje

In a spectacular fight that UFC crowned as the 2021 fight of the year, Justin Gathje and Michael Chandler produced a highly entertaining and memorable 15-minute war. No. 3 ranked Gathje is coming off the wrong side of the most dramatic knockout finish in UFC history. Before the loss, Gathje was almost certain to be the top contender for Makhachev’s lightweight title. A fight versus Chandler makes sense as it would possibly set up the winner to be one more big win away from a title shot and give the fans something they have been waiting for since the first fight at Madison Square Garden in November 2021.

3. Max Holloway

In his five previous UFC bouts, Michael Chandler has been the ultimate professional by showing up and delivering must-watch performances, win or lose. Dana White recently referred to Chandler as one of the "greatest athletes" he’s ever worked with, which means he might be able to dictate who he wants to fight. Currently, at the height of his popularity, the ideal fight for Chandler would be against someone in that upper echelon of UFC fighters, someone who just delivered the biggest knockout of all time on the biggest UFC card of all time, Max Holloway.

After the Gathje knockout, Holloway has been even more adamant about wanting his opportunity at featherweight champion Ilia Topuria, but so has long-time former featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. Volkanovski gets precedent for the Topuria to fight for a well-deserved rematch having hels and defended for five years. With Topuria and Volkanovski seemingly tying up the 145 picture for the remainder of 2024, and possibly into early 2025, that leaves Holloway in limbo and without a fight.

If Chandler decides to move on from McGregor in the next few months, a fall showdown for the BMF title would be a must-watch event. As the current undisputed BMF champ, we can’t see Holloway objecting to this fight. For Holloway, a win versus Chandler starts making the conversation of a 155 title shot even louder. For Chandler, a win gives him a Hall of Fame name to add to his resume, a shiny silver belt that opens the door to more unique fights, and most importantly an indisputable incentive for his desired showdown with McGregor.