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Morning Report: Kevin Lee thinks Michael Chandler may not fare so well in the UFC: ‘He’s just way too small’

The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale weigh-in photosEsther Lin, MMA Fighting

On Thursday, UFC President Dana White revealed the news that the MMA world had been waiting on since August: Michael Chandler was officially signing with the UFC. But though Chandler’s addition to the UFC’s lightweight division was anticipated, White also shocked the MMA world by revealing that Chandler would be shot right to the top of the division, serving as the backup fighter to the lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje at UFC 248. It was an announcement that revealed how highly the UFC views Chandler but it was also an announcement that drew some ire from some of the top lightweights in the sport, among them, “The Motown Phenom” Kevin Lee.

Speaking to SiriusXM’s Fight Nation, Lee responded to the UFC signing, saying that he believes the reason Chandler is getting the spot as backup to a title fight is a twist of the knife to Chandler’s former home, Bellator MMA.

“I expected them to sign Chandler,” Lee said. “It seemed like he was kinda getting over Bellator and he’s a competitor, so he probably actually wanted to really test himself. But the fact that they’re trying to making him the backup for Gaethje vs. Khabib, I don’t really get that. I think that’s a way for them to try and sh*t on Bellator again, you know. It’s like, ‘OK let’s throw him in there with Khabib right out of the gate so Khabib can whoop his ass and now I can sh*t on Scott Coker just a little bit more and make him look a little worse.”

As with other high-profile signings, Chandler’s move to the UFC brings with it questions about how Chandler will fare in the premier organization in the world. Many champions in other organizations have done well coming to the UFC but former Bellator champions have been a mixed bag. Eddie Alvarez famously won the UFC lightweight title but only was able to manage a 4-4 record in the UFC, and Will Brooks only a 1-3 record. Chandler is certainly hoping to do better than both of those men but Lee believes Chandler is going to have a hard time adjusting to the magnitude of the UFC, especially given that he’s already 34 years old.

“I think it’s more than just who he’s fought, I look at his skills too. The kid can fight. I’ve been studying him for a long-ass time, and he’s trained with a lot of UFC guys, a lot of top-level guys. You can see, he posts online a lot of his scrambles that he gets into and when you break it down technique for technique, you’re like, man, this kid is really good, but I think it’s more the magnitude of the fights. I think that might be why they’re putting him into such a big fight right out of the gate.

“You talk about Gaethje and Khabib and being on Fight Island and on ESPN for the first time, no matter what you do in your training or any of these other fights – and he’s had a lot of five-round fights, a lot of title fights – but nothing of that magnitude, with that many eyeballs on you. You get like this microscope on you almost. Those lights gets to beaming on you and it’s a little bit different. My brother fights for Bellator, he just fought this last weekend, won a great fight, but even just being there, you could see that the lights are a little bit different. They’re a little dimmer. If you watch it on TV you can kinda tell, the lights are a little dimmer. On the big stages like that, I think that’s where it might catch up to him, because he can fight, he’s good enough to be top five, but I don’t know if he’s good enough, especially at 34 years old, if he has the time to kind of adjust to them bright lights.”

Lee knows something about what he speaks, as he did previously vie for an interim lightweight title in the UFC. However, Lee has fallen on hard times in the organization recently, having gone 2-3 since that failed title bid, including a brief, ill-fated move to welterweight. Still ranked number 10 in the division though, Lee clearly is hoping to wrangle a bout with Chandler in the future and get back on the short list for title contention.

“Against Gaethje he might stand a chance, but against Khabib he’s just way too small,” Lee said. “I think Chandler’s way too small for this whole division. I actually hope he gets the fight. Then once he loses, then it might be him in the middle of next year. You never know how things are going to play out. I’ve been looking at Chandler for a long-ass time. That’s going to be a good fight.”


Signing. Michael Chandler signs with UFC, set to serve as backup for Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.

Plans. Dana White: UFC ‘working on some fun stuff for Conor McGregor at the beginning of next year’.

BLM. Tyron Woodley makes statement at UFC Vegas 11 presser by answering every question with Black Lives Matter.

Class-action. Judge hedges, but ‘likely’ to certify UFC anti-trust case as class-action lawsuit.

Retirement. Facing five-fight skid, Donald Cerrone declares ‘I’m going to leave when I’m done – I don’t ever want walking papers’.

USADA. Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson officially returns to USADA testing pool, UFC return still 6 months away.


UFC Vegas 11 Fighters You Should Know.

Dana’s statement to TMZ.


Fights Gone By. Previewing the key fights at UFC Vegas 11.

UFC Unfiltered. Interviews with Tyron Woodley and Donald Cerrone.


Michael Chandler is already in Abu Dhabi.

Israel Adesanya has signed a deal with Puma.



No idea what is going on here.

Going (going), back (back) to Abu Dhabi.

New knees (multiple) sounds awful.

Fight poster.


Damon Jackson (17-3-1) vs. Mirsad Bektic (13-3); UFC Vegas 11, Sep. 19.

Daron Cruickshank (22-13, 1 NC) vs. Deivison Ribeiro (27-11, 1 NC); Taura MMA, Oct. 30.


Thanks for reading and see y’all on Monday.


If you find something you’d like to see in the Morning Report, hit up @JedKMeshew on Twitter and let him know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram, add us on Snapchat at MMA-Fighting, and like us on Facebook.

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