Mike Chandler Signs UFC Contract, Will Be Backup for Khabib vs. Gaethje Fight

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2020

Michael Chandler in action against Brent Primus during their mixed martial arts bout for the lightweight title at Bellator 180 on Saturday, June 24, 2017, in New York. Primus won the title via first round doctor stoppage. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

UFC president Dana White announced Thursday the promotion signed former Bellator lightweight world champion Michael Chandler. 

White didn't confirm when Chandler will make his debut, but the 34-year-old will serve as a backup should either Khabib Nurmagomedov or Justin Gaethje be unable to make the main event of UFC 254 on Oct. 24.

ESPN's Brett Okamoto shared a statement from Chandler: "Eventually hard work pays off, you just have to still be standing there when it does. I'm humbled by the opportunity and can't wait to go prove what I have been saying for the past 11 years; that I'm the best 155er in the world."

Chandler has a 21-5 professional record in MMA, with the bulk of his career spent in Bellator. He debuted with the promotion in September 2010, and a little over a year later, he defeated Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 58 to start the first of three lightweight title reigns.

The 5'8", 155-pound fighter last stepped inside the cage at Bellator 243 in August. He knocked out Benson Henderson in the first round.

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Assuming Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje happens as planned, Chandler could still have an opportunity to make a strong first impression in UFC.

ESPN's Ariel Helwani reported has considered pairing him with Tony Ferguson, who's the third-ranked lightweight challenger and the No. 14 pound-for-pound fighter.