Former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler has a lot he could complain about right now, but chances are you'll never hear him say it.
Chandler lost a very controversial decision to Will Brooks at the Bellator pay-per-view a few weeks ago that many would have scored in his favor. While the bout was back and forth and seemingly split at two rounds piece going into the final round, Chandler got a knockdown and a takedown to pull ahead before the fight came to an end. It looked like enough for him to earn a victory, but the judges saw it a different way. Instead, he left Mississippi that night with a loss on his record and no interim Bellator title.
The only reason Chandler was in this fight in the first place was because his original opponent Eddie Alvarez was forced out of their bout due to a concussion suffered in training and Brooks was asked to step in last minute to give the pay-per-view a lightweight title fight as promised. Chandler accepted the fight, although rumors persisted that week and in the days following the show that he wasn’t 100-percent going into it.
“As a fighter, as a man, as a competitor, I wanted to step into that cage,” Chandler told the Great MMA Debate podcast. “It was definitely my duty to step foot in that cage and that's what God put me on this Earth to do. There's going to be times where hard decisions need to be made and you go with your heart and you lay it on the line and you move forward.”
Sources indicated when speaking to MMAWeekly.com that Chandler's problem was a back injury he suffered weeks out from the fight that almost forced him to withdraw. Once Alvarez fell off the card, Chandler was apparently close to pulling out as well, but ultimately decided to stay and fight Brooks because the show needed him and it was a chance to reclaim the interim lightweight title.
Chandler's manager, David Martin of the Martin Advisory Group, declined comment on the injury rumor and only stated that he's hopeful his fighter can get healthy and earn the rematch he believes he deserves with Brooks later this year.
As for his part, Chandler agrees with his manager because as much as he'd like to settle the score once and for all with Alvarez, the loss to Brooks just leaves a bad taste in his mouth.
“It's definitely an interesting dynamic and at the end of the day, I want both of those guys extremely bad,” Chandler said. “I think the second fight with Alvarez, losing that fight definitely stung, but nothing as bad as that last fight. My last fight, physically not being able to be the fighter that everybody wanted to see that night and go out there and lose a fight — be it controversial, be it not controversial — I want to be able to go out there and avenge that loss.
“I'd love to be able to go out there and put a stamp on the fight with Will Brooks and beat him on a night and then go out there and finish that trilogy with Eddie Alvarez. At the end of the day, we had the fight ready, we had the trilogy and it was going to get settled, but Eddie unfortunately had to pull out. This last one stung big time because I wasn't able to show who I am as a fighter. I'd definitely like the Will Brooks fight back and then Eddie Alvarez after that.”
Since coming to Bellator several years ago as a young prospect from the world of wrestling, Chandler had evolved into one of the company's biggest stars and that was justified when he re-signed for a new multi-fight contract last year rumored to be one of the most lucrative in the company.
Chandler is loyal to his promotion, so whatever the powers that be ultimately decide to do, he'll stand by their choice, but he's not going to hide which scenario he prefers to unfold.
“Tim Danaher (Bellator president) and Kevin Kay (Spike TV) and everyone at Bellator's been great. Whatever they want to do is fine by me, but obviously my preference would be go out there get the Will Brooks fight back and avenge that loss and then go out there and put an exclamation point on the trilogy everybody wants to see,” Chandler commented.
Right now, Chandler is already feeling much better after just a few days of rest and relaxation since the fight, and he's anticipating his return to action once Bellator decides on his next opponent.