Michael Chandler & Arman Tsarukyan Clash Over Rejected UFC 302 Title Fight

Michael Chandler criticized Arman Tsarukyan for turning down a title fight against reigning lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, arguing that opportunities in the sport should be seized quickly; Tsarukyan responded by saying that he is playing chess with his career and accused Chandler of just waiting for a paycheck.

Michael Chandler’s got a thing or two to say about timing. He’s learned from his own journey that the biggest breaks often come down to just that.

He made his UFC debut with a bang, knocking out Dan Hooker in the first round. Then, three-time Bellator lightweight champ got a shot at a UFC title in his second fight. This was after Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s retirement announcement shook the MMA world.

Chandler lost his shot at the title to Charles Oliveira at UFC 262. But he’s got no regrets about stepping up to the plate three months after his octagon debut.

And that’s why he’s scratching his head at Arman Tsarukyan’s decision. Tsarukyan turned down a title fight against reigning lightweight champ Islam Makhachev after defeating Oliveira at UFC 300. He had the chance to face Makhachev at UFC 302 in June but passed. Dustin Poirier stepped in for the title fight instead.

“Arman just beat Oliveira. Sounds like he’s next in line,” Chandler remarked on The MMA Hour. “I don’t get why he didn’t take the fight. I would’ve.”

Chandler knows the game. He knows that passing on an opportunity can come back to haunt you.

He points out that just a few weeks after Makhachev and Poirier duke it out at UFC 302, he’ll be welcoming Conor McGregor back to the octagon at UFC 303. The winner of that fight could easily slide into a title fight next.

“This sport moves fast,” Chandler said. “June 1, you’ll see the lightweight title fight, then a couple weeks later, a bigger fight. Both of those guys can make lightweight.”

“You’ve got to grab your chances. You’ve got to pounce on them. I waited 15 months, so I get it. But I wasn’t asked for any opportunities in the last 15 months.”

As for Tsarukyan’s chances against Makhachev, Chandler thinks the 27-year-old Georgian fighter is a risk for anyone he faces. Tsarukyan gave Makhachev one of his toughest fights to date, even on short notice in his octagon debut. Makhachev still won a unanimous decision.

Chandler doesn’t see a rematch going differently. He acknowledges Tsarukyan’s strength on the ground, but he believes Makhachev has a lot of guys’ numbers.

“He’s not just fighting for himself. He’s fighting for his country, for Khabib’s legacy, for Khabib’s dad’s legacy. It’s deep. It’s special. It’s intimidating,” Chandler said.

“But no, I think Islam retains against Poirier. I think he retains against Arman. And I guess that would have to be first quarter next year, I would fight him.”

Chandler would’ve jumped at the chance to fight Makhachev, even under less than ideal circumstances. But Tsarukyan reminded him that he’s playing chess, not checkers, with his career.

Tsarukyan had a fiery response to Chandler’s comments. He blasted the UFC 303 headliner for always putting on exciting fights – and constantly losing them.

“I don’t expect you to understand Michael Chandler,” Tsarukyan wrote on Twitter. “We are not on the same level. I am here to be the champ. You are just waiting for a paycheck.”

“I also don’t understand why you waited [for the] Conor fight for two years, you could’ve lost four exciting fights during that time.”


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