After UFC 257 came to an end, the title contention for the lightweight championship of the world was seemingly down to just three men.
Dustin Poirier cemented his spot at the top of the pile with his win over Conor McGregor, while Dana White finally admitted that Khabib Nurmagomedov would most likely not be returning to action.
A stunning knockout win in the co-main event by Michael Chandler also put him into contention, despite it being his UFC debut, when he beat Dan Hooker.
Chandler has now revealed that the UFC have tried to make him a second fight with a quick turnaround, to try and settle the top of the pile once and for all – but it won’t be happening.
According to ‘Iron’ Michael, he was offered a fight for UFC 258 on February 13th in the co-main event slot following the cancellation of Uriah Hall and Chris Weidman’s bout due to COVID-19.
He says he accepted the fight without hesitation and hopped on a plane to Florida two days later to begin preparations, only to be told that his would-be-opponent had turned down the fight.
Speaking to Ariel Helwani Chandler said, “I didn’t have any names being thrown around necessarily, but I knew by process of elimination that it would be someone ranked ahead of me.”
According to AGFight, the person offered the fight was Charles ‘Du Bronx’ Oliveira but he turned the fight down because it wasn’t going to be for the championship.
It leaves the division in an interesting position, with Poirier refusing to fight against Chandler for the title and openly admitting that he’d be happy to step aside if the UFC are insistent on putting him into the title picture.
Oliveira is on an eight-fight win streak at the moment in the lightweight division, with his most recent win being a dominant decision against ‘El Cucuy’ Tony Ferguson at UFC 256 back in December.
That however is his only win against anyone ranked in the top ten of the lightweight division and it’s not beyond the realms of common sense for the UFC to ask him to fight again to cement his contender status.
Chandler is a veteran of the sport, having previously competed and won the Bellator lightweight title three times, with nearly 30 professional fights to his name but he is new to the UFC.
While his debut win was mightily impressive, it was just that – a debut win. A fight between the two in a sort of semi-final to see who would fight Poirier for the belt would have made a lot of sense.
It further legitimises the position that both fighters are currently in and adds another big name to their CV’s, while also keeping the division moving. By making it for the title and letting Poirier step aside, it makes the championship look weaker and many will look at the champion as having not truly earned that spot.
If Oliveira is turning down fights to force a title shot, the UFC could leave him behind. Justin Gaethje is in the mix too and the UFC could just as easily make a fight between him and Chandler with the winner fighting Poirier, although he has already beaten Gaethje by knockout previously.
While Chandler is seemingly game to fight anyone to get himself that opportunity, Oliveira is being more selective and he is going to do himself more harm than good in the long run.