UFC 257 will be the lightweight debut of Michael Chandler (21-5) in the UFC after spending 10 years with Bellator. He will fight the No. 6 lightweight contender Dan Hooker (20-9) in the co-main event of the pay-per-view card. Chandler was a highly coveted free agent when his deal with Bellator expired in August 2020.
It was perfect timing for Chandler and the UFC to work together after years of speculation and rumors. For Chandler, he noted that he had larger financial offers from other MMA promotions, but there was no bigger opportunity for Chandler to reach the summit of MMA than in the UFC. By joining the UFC, Chandler immediately put himself in contention for a future title shot against the lightweight opponent. He already had a recognizable name in the MMA community and his signing with the UFC only raised his profile as a fighter.
The UFC has the largest platform of all MMA organizations and the stage he will make his debut on does not get any bigger. Chandler’s fight against Hooker will serve as the co-main event for the Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor main event. Believe it or not, Chandler’s presence on the card could mean more pay-per-view buys because it guarantees a loaded card outside of the main event.
This is the ultimate opportunity for Chandler to take advantage of the biggest stage in the sport, especially when the lights are the brightest and the stakes are the highest. The fight will take place on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi at the Etihad Arena.
There will be a limited number of fans at the arena, which will make it feel like pay-per-view events from the past. Chandler has a chance to make the most of the moment with a victory over Hooker, and make a case to fight for the title. If he defeats Hooker, he could call out McGregor or even Poirier in the post-fight interview with the UFC commentary team. If he throws his hat in the ring, it could force the UFC’s hand to give him a shot sooner rather than later.
Chandler’s long-awaited UFC debut comes after months of trying to schedule fights with the likes of Poirier, Tony Ferguson, and Charles Oliveira. Chandler was originally scheduled to fight at UFC 254 in Abu Dhabi, but he could not find an opponent who would agree to the fight. Chandler attended the event, and he was a backup fighter for the lightweight championship main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje.
The UFC is not doing any favors for Chandler because they are putting him in the Octagon against a legitimate contender who last fought in a classic bout against Poirier in June 2020. This will be the ultimate test for Chandler because if he can find a way past Hooker, then he will have a solid case to make to be one of the top contenders in the lightweight division.
Chandler is not the first notable name from another promotion to debut in the UFC. Most recently, Eddie Alvarez and Ben Askren were the latest to crossover to the UFC to elevate their status as elite fighters in their divisions. Alvarez was the UFC lightweight champion in 2016, before losing his belt to McGregor at UFC 205. For Chandler, if his debut goes as planned, he will have a bright future ahead of him in the UFC.