Michael Chandler has a lot going on these days, even with his recent hiatus from the cage.
Hiatus, in fact, is the key word in Chandler’s life at the moment — the three-time Bellator MMA lightweight champ and UFC title challenger, fresh off his Ultimate Fighter 31 coaching gig against Conor McGregor, has entered into a partnership with Hiatus Tequila.
Like he is with everything he does, Chandler is passionate about this new venture, after trying Hiatus through a friend about a year ago. The UFC star knew then that he wanted more involvement. “I didn’t want to just be an ambassador,” Chandler told Cageside Press in a recent interview, adding that once he met the team behind Hiatus, “I just knew I wanted to be involved in a big way, so I became an investor of the company.”
The Hiatus name existed prior to Chandler’s involvement, but it’s rather fitting. The lightweight star, owner of two Fight of the Year showings, has been on a lengthy timeout waiting for the return of TUF 31 rival Conor McGregor. Their hotly anticipated fight may or may not be part of UFC 300, and even Chandler doesn’t seem to know for sure. Or if he does, he’s playing it close to the chest.
“I don’t know over/under, but I can say obviously that we are announced up to January, February, March, so obviously that next big announcement is going to be UFC 300,” noted Chandler. “The blessing and the curse of such a monumental card is, the UFC is going to do a pretty good job of keeping their cards close to the chest. Because, let’s be honest, there’s some secret super fights going on, secret negotiations, phone calls being made, pie in the sky dream match-ups that are probably being talked about in that war room on Tuesday— actually today’s Tuesday, that’s when the UFC kind of convenes and starts talking about all those fights and the match-ups at the matchmaker meeting.”
“It’s a blessing and a curse, being talked about being on that card. I’m not saying that we are, but I sure would like to be,” continued “Iron” Mike. “Obviously who wouldn’t want to be a part of UFC 300? I think me and Conor is blockbuster, it’s a blockbuster type of match-up, it’s a blockbuster type of fight. The greatest comeback in combat sports history he calls it, plus one of the most, if not the most exciting guy on the roster who actually goes out there and is not afraid to go out on his shield at any given moment.”
If all goes well, Chandler will spend the next few weeks doing some work with Hiatus, and then “hopefully things start heating up and we get into a training camp.”
Is Michael Chandler confident the McGregor fight happens in the first half of 2024? He is.
“I’m very confident. I’m very confident that it happens first half,” said Chandler, before hedging his bets a little. “I could be wrong, let’s be honest, as we all have been. The speculation is running wild obviously and that’s just par for the course for a huge fight like this. This is gonna be one of the biggest fights that we’ve seen in recent years. Because of Conor’s injury, ‘is he ever gonna come back?’ plus his ups and downs we’ve seen over the last couple of years of him being on his hiatus. And then me being held out now for a year or so.”
“People [are] chomping at the bit to want to see me get back in the cage, get back in there and compete. But I’ve been enjoying this hiatus the last year. It’s been great for the body, mind, soul and spirit, and you’re going to see a different animal when I finally get to strap on those UFC gloves, bite down on that mouthpiece, and go out there and get another knockout of the year.”
Michael Chandler ‘s old home of Bellator MMA, where he built a name for himself and helped build the promotion, recently sold to the PFL. The Bellator brand will live on, at least initially, with eight shows per year planned by the new owners, mostly overseas. Chandler recognizes that, while bittersweet, it’s all part of the fight business.
“Yeah, it’ll live on,” said Chandler, suggesting that regardless of the brand, what matters is “the people behind it.”
“I got numerous text messages, I sent numerous text messages out to people from Bellator, because they’re human beings and they’re heartbeats. And I loved them and I loved my time there. They love me, we still have a phenomenal relationship. So it was interesting, bittersweet, but this is business, this is the fight game as we call it. It’s going to be cool and interesting to see how it all plays out. And hat’s off to the PFL, I think they’re doing a great job, hat’s off to Bellator, I hope it’s all working out for everybody.”
Chandler trains with a number of fighters from both organizations, and counts PFL champ Impa Kasanganay and Bellator champ Jason Jackson among his friends and teammates. “So I’ve got friends there, and it’s cool to see. It’s a crazy business that we’re in, and as we talked about earlier, fight every day like it’s your last, because you never know when these crazy changes are going to be happening.”
Watch our full interview with UFC lightweight contender Michael Chandler above.