Michael Chandler is not rematching Bellator lightweight champion Brent Primus next, and neither Chandler nor Primus can seem to agree why.
Chandler lost his title in anticlimactic fashion in June when the former two-time champion suffered an injury in the opening minutes of his Bellator NYC bout against Primus. A rematch seemed like the obvious next step and was a booking Chandler campaigned for throughout the summer. But last week Bellator announced that Chandler’s next fight would come on Jan. 20 against Goiti Yamauchi, not Primus. The announcement left many within the MMA community surprised and a little puzzled.
According to Primus, that’s because Chandler turned down the rematch.
But Chandler has a very different story.
According to him, Primus is the one that said no to the rematch multiple times. And at some point, Chandler says he finally gave up and moved on to other pastures.
“I have been asking to fight Brent Primus since I sat there in that studio on that chair (two days after Bellator NYC),” Chandler said Monday on The MMA Hour.
“I asked for the fight in October at Mohegan Sun. I asked for it in November at Penn State. I asked for it in December overseas. But I am a professional fighter, I am a prize fighter. I’m not going to sit around and wait for somebody who, he himself just had a child and he’s on maternity leave right now, so he just wants to sit around and not do anything. So I’m not going to wait. I have a lot bigger fish to fry and a lot bigger things to do than wait around for somebody who honestly just doesn’t want to take a fight. I don’t know what his reasoning is besides he’s just busy, but you know me well. I’ve been fighting for eight years, he has been fighting for eight years — he has eight fights, I have 20 fights. I’ve fought injured. I’ve called out the biggest names in the division and the division above me. So you know what the real truth is in this scenario.”
After wasting the entire second half of 2017 waiting on word for a rematch, Chandler said he was “ticked off” to see Primus “lie to everybody” and claim that Chandler turned down the fight. Chandler said he isn’t sure why Primus is making such claims, but at this point, he is done with Primus entirely. He said he’s turning his focus towards hunting down the biggest fights possible, regardless of weight class, and recapturing the lightweight belt for a third title reign is no longer important to him.
“I was asking to fight him. Bellator wanted to make the fight. But you can’t force somebody to fight,” Chandler said. “I’ve been in this situation numerous times now, where I am telling Bellator, ‘I want to fight, I want to fight this guy, I want to fight, just give me any fight,’ and Bellator has some people on the roster who just don’t want to fight. They’re part-time fighters. This guy that we are talking about is a part-time fighter. He’s been fighting eight years, and only in one of those years has he fought more than one time. I am the most upset fighter in the entire world that I only fought one time in the calendar year of 2017, because that’s not who I am.
“I’m a professional fighter, I want to fight numerous times a year. I want to go out there, be put on a platform and beat somebody up in front of millions of people. This guy wants to… not. He’s literally the exact opposite of me. So I’ve got some bigger fights, man. … I’ve been calling out (Rory) MacDonald, I’ve been calling out Paul Daley. The little Patricio Pitbull sister has been wanting to fight me ever since I literally mangled his brother on national television and almost beat him within an inch of his life. So, I have a lot more fights that I can take than this rematch. To me, the belt doesn’t mean anything to me. I don’t need the belt to prove who I am. The belt, to me, is just an ornament at this point. I just want to fight.”
While it’s rare in MMA to hear a fighter say he or she isn’t focused on a title, Chandler has been there and done that plenty of times before.
For nearly the entirety of his seven-year run in Bellator, Chandler has either been near title contention or reigned over the lightweight division as its champion. Doing so has helped Chandler become one of the only homegrown stars Bellator has left under contract, so at this point, Chandler says he makes the same amount of money regardless of whether he’s champion or not — a point which, if true, gives him the financial freedom to pursue opportunities elsewhere if Primus isn’t looking to run things back.
“I don’t need to have the belt around my waist,” Chandler said. “I walk into a room, he walks into a room — who do you think is getting the attention? If I walk into a room, he walks into a room with the belt over his shoulder, people would just be wondering, saying, ‘He’s just one of those fans who got one of those Bellator belts. Where’d you get that Bellator belt? Are you going to have Chandler sign it? That’s cool, man.’
“I’ve earned my position in this company. I have bled. I have died inside that cage, came back in the fifth round against Benson Henderson finished the fight at the bell and won the fight via decision. I’ve had the belt numerous times. I mean, I went up to Sanford Medical in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, got 12 shots in my spine on a Wednesday before the first Bellator pay-per-view ever and hobbled into the cage all jacked up, body all numb, went out there and lost a fight that I should’ve never taken. That’s what I do. I don’t care about the belt. I have three of them in my office.
“I care about legacy. I care about creating currency for myself and my family, and now my son. My wife and my son. That’s what I want. The belt, to me, is an ornament. I couldn’t care less. I’ve got some big fights that people want to watch, and that’s what’s going to happen.”
Chandler added that has no doubts how a rematch would’ve played out anyway, since he “almost knocked [Primus] out on one leg” at Bellator NYC.
So for now, Chandler is moving on.
He faces Yamauchi on Jan. 20, then he wants to move up to welterweight to land “the biggest and most exciting fights” he possibly can.
“Those guys at 170 aren’t that much bigger than me,” Chandler said. “I’m a big lightweight, I haven’t had the easiest time making weight. The only reason I can make weight easily is because I’m disciplined for 10 weeks. I’ve already started my diet to get down to 155 on Jan. 20. It’s not easy for me to make weight, because I still in shape and I keep a lean body mass, lean muscle mass, throughout my entire year, and I get up into that 187-190 mark, and then I bring it down. So, yeah, I want those big, explosive fights.
“Paul Daley is one of the most exciting fighters in the entire world. I want to step into the cage with that man. Rory MacDonald is widely regarding as one of the top welterweights in the world. I want to fight that man. Patricio Pitbull is smaller than me, but he’s got a big mouth and he hates me more than anybody hates anybody in this entire MMA game, so we might as well step into the cage and settle it. So there’s no reason to talk about has-beens and part-time fighters, who we were alluding to earlier. Let’s start talking about the big names, the people who actually fight for a living, who fight for a paycheck, who love to step into the cage, bite down on their mouthpiece, and put on a show for the fans. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve done since 2009, since I finished my college wrestling career.
“So it’s time to go, man — Jan. 20 it is. I’m a prizefighter, I’m ready to collect a prize.”