Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Contributor (Getty Images)
Michael Chandler was seen as a potential cornerstone the minute he set foot inside the Bellator MMA organization. In the eight-plus years since, he has done nothing to diminish that viewpoint.
Chandler will attempt to reclaim the organization’s lightweight championship when he confronts the unbeaten Brent Primus in the Bellator 212 main event on Friday at the Neil S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu. The 32-year-old Hard Knocks 365 representative surrendered the 155-pound title to Primus at Bellator 180 in June 2017, his defeat resulting from a doctor stoppage due to a leg injury 2:22 into Round 1. Now comes the sequel. Chandler enters the rematch on the heels of consecutive victories over Brandon Girtz and Goiti Yamauchi. Should he dethrone Primus, he would become the first three-time champion in Bellator history.
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Ahead of Chandler’s showdown with Primus, here are five things you should know about him:
1. He was spawned by humble beginnings.
Born on April 24, 1986, Chandler was the second of four children born to Michael and Betsy Chandler in High Ridge, Missouri — a 3.8-square-mile town of roughly 4,000 people located some 25 miles from St. Louis.
2. He excelled in wrestling.
Chandler was an NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Missouri, where he was a two-time team captain, four-time national qualifier and compiled more than 100 victories. He finished his career with the Tigers with a 100-40 career record.
3. He made a seamless transition to MMA.
Chandler made his debut as a professional mixed martial artist at a regional event in Lake Ozark, Missouri, on Aug. 8, 2009, and went on to win his first 12 bouts — the run highlighted by a rear-naked choke submission on Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 58 that brought with it the undisputed Bellator MMA lightweight championship.
4. Potent offensive skills have become his calling card.
Chandler boasts four sub-minute finishes on his resume. David Rickels (44 seconds), Akihiro Gono (56 seconds), Chris Page (57 seconds) and Salvador Woods (59 seconds) were the victims.
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5. His name permeates the Bellator record book.
“Iron Mike” ranks among the promotion’s all-time leaders in appearances (19), wins (15), finishes (11), submission victories (six) and title fight appearances (nine).