Michael Chandler is still willing to fight Tony Ferguson.
The former Bellator lightweight champion and new UFC contender stands as a potential replacement opponent in the Oct. 24 main event lightweight title unification bout between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim champ Justin Gaethje.
But Chandler (21-5 MMA, 0-0 UFC) recently told MMA Junkie Radio that even though the idea of fighting Ferguson in the co-main event of UFC 254 didn’t come through when it was initially discussed, he’d still take the fight as the days wind down to the big event.
“I’m already going Oct. 24th, I’m already making weight, so yes, I would definitely fight him, Chandler said. “He’s kind of the only guy that I’m interested in fighting right now. It’s already been talked about, so you don’t add any names to that hat whenever a guy in the top five is already talked about.”
Chandler explained that when he left Bellator and got on board with the UFC, the company floated several potential proposals his way, and he was open-minded to all of them.
“When I was getting the deal done with the UFC, they essentially said, ‘We know that you just fought in August, but would you be willing to fight in October?’ and I said ‘absolutely.’” Chandler explained in a recent interview with MMA Junkie Radio. “They asked if I’d be willing to fight Dustin Poirier or Tony Ferguson in October and said those guys are scheduled to fight but they’re having money issues and they’re kind of having different issues and whatnot and I said ‘absolutely.’ They (UFC) said, ‘We kind of know the answer to this, but if one of those guys aren’t willing to fight, will you be the backup for the Oct. 24 card? I said ‘absolutely.’
“So my answer to all six of their questions was yes, yes, yes. When you come into an organization, you have to show your worth and I think that was a way to not throw my weight around. I wasn’t going to say, ‘No, I’m not going to be the backup, I’m not going to be your insurance policy.’
“You have a lot of fans and people kind of coming at me saying, ‘This guy is entitled and this, this and that.’ When really, I swallowed my pride a little bit and said I’d be willing to be the alternate for the Gaethje-Khabib card for the slight chance that I might get to fight for the world title rather than saying a top-five guy or bust. Instead, I said I’d be willing to be the insurance policy for that fight.”
The UFC initially planned on making Ferguson vs. Poirier the co-main event of UFC 254. However, the bout didn’t come together. Poirier had publicly expressed wanting higher compensation for the bout and UFC president Dana White claimed Poirier negotiated himself out of the fight.
Chandler said both Ferguson and Poirier rejected offers to fight him on Oct. 24.
“Tony Ferguson was on the table, he said no; Dustin Poirier was on the table, he said no,” Chandler explained. “Since, Dustin Poirier has said yes to Conor (McGregor) and I think Conor has said yes to Dustin. So that leaves Tony Ferguson. That’s why I said in his way with all caps on Twitter, I said you already turned down a fight against me on the biggest card of the year. This card was going to have a lot of eyeballs and we could’ve been the co-main event and got this tournament going as he likes to talk. I could’ve stepped on his mat and see how things shake out. I think I go out there and beat Tony Ferguson and I immediately put myself on the title picture.”