Toyota of Escondido Action Sports athlete and reigning Bellator MMA Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler Jr talks about his ascension through the ranks of MMA and where he would like to be in the future.
Transcript from Mike Chandler:
Who is Michael Chandler Jr?
“My name is Michael Chandler. I’m the Bellator lightweight Champion. That’s 155 lbs. From High Ridge Missouri. I live out here in San Diego California, train at Alliance Training Center down here in Chula Vista. I spent my first two years training at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas and then made the move out here and things have been going really well. I’m the oldest of three boys and wrestled a lot growing up. That’s kind of how I got into this sport. I had a couple of guys come out into the MMA game before me, I wrestled at the University of Missouri with them, Mizzou, and it was Tyron Woodley who is over in the UFC now and Ben Askren who is the welterweight champion in Bellator. So I kind of followed suit with them, kind of started rolling around with them toward the end of my college wrestling career and then I figured I would give this MMA thing a try and everything is going well. I haven’t looked back since. I’ve had 11 fights, I’m 11-0 right now and looking forward to the next one and just continue to be a good ambassador for the sport and a good ambassador for Toyota of Escondido.”
Why Bellator MMA?
“One of the most interesting and attractive things for me about signing with Bellator a couple of years ago was the fact that there was a tournament, I could get three fights very quickly. It was three fights in three months, so I actually fought in September and October of 2010 and then I ended up fighting three, I ended up fighting four fights in the year of 2011 so I had six fights in thirteen months. It was a great way to get myself out there and get a bunch of wins under my belt. Going through that tournament was tough. In the first round I drew a guy named Marcin Held, who is a really really tough leg lock guy, out of Poland and I got caught in a pretty nasty leg lock and kind of tweaked my hamstring and LCL a little bit and had to turn around and fight four weeks later. So I definitely brought that injury into my next fight and drew a guy named Lloyd Woodard and had my first decision. We fought three hard rounds and I got the unanimous decision and then I fought a guy named Patricky Pitbull (Freire) in the finals who had just come off of two knockouts of Rob McCullough and Toby Imada and everybody was expecting him to come out and knock me out. You know, with a good boxing coach there at Xtreme Couture Gil Martinez, we are able to put together a really good game plan on our feet and then I had a great grappling coach Neil Melanson on the ground. So with that win it propelled me into the title shot against Eddie Alvarez and fought him November 19th, 2011. The fight is on YouTube so if anybody wants to watch it they can look it up, Michael Chandler .vs. Eddie Alvarez ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HziG9DBfJf0 ) and it was up for fight of the year. We fought for four hard rounds and ended up finishing him in a rear naked choke in the fourth round and life has been changed ever since.”
What is it like to be the reigning Lightweight Champion? Talk about your title defense against Rick Hawn.
“Being the Bellator lightweight champion is an honor and it’s one of those things that I don’t take lightly. It’s one of those things where I don’t care who I’m fighting, whether its the number one guy in the world or the one-hundred and fiftieth guy in the world, I train every single day like its the biggest fight of my life. I’m surround by a great group of training partners and coaches out here at Alliance and I’m just so blessed to have the opportunity to train under Eric Del Fierro, Adrian Melendez and Doug Balzarini my strength and conditioning coach and George Castro one of my striking coaches. It’s a great atmosphere here, Southern California is beautiful. I made that move and its just been great. The Rick Hawn fight was the first fight of Ballator moving over to SPIKE TV. Bellator was somewhat bought out by Viacom they own a majority stake, so with that came the platform of SPIKE TV and it’s just a great opportunity to be in front of millions and millions of eyeballs. I think it peaked at over a million views and the advertising that they were using was just nuts! I had people telling me that they were going to movie theaters and they would see my preview of me fighting Rick Hawn, the preview of the fight, during the whatever they are called, the things before the show, the previews! So the type of marketing budget that they put behind it, the type of hype that the put behind it was just great. So Janurary 17th rolled around and it was the biggest fight of my life, the biggest stage of my life and it was a really great opportunity for me to go out there and try to continue my journey to become the number one lightweight in the world. Rick Hawn was a tough guy, he was 14-1 at the time, he had just knocked out two guys in the tournament again. So I had another guy who had really good knockout power, he was a welterweight dropping down to lightweight so he was a bigger guy and he was a Judo-Olympian. I wouldn’t say there was a lot of pressure I don’t try to put much pressure on myself because you know at the end of the day if you do things right, if you’re training as hard as you possibly can, if you’re making the right decisions to put yourself in the best possible situation you possibly can that night, you know, you just have to be okay with the level of uncertainty that is about to happen. But you can’t put that pressure on yourself because at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter whether you win or lose as long as you put yourself in the best possible situation and I did that. I don’t really get nervous for my fights but that was definitely the biggest fight of my life and more than anything I was just excited. I was excited to get out there and compete. The first round went well we won the first round. We did a little striking, took him down in the first round, beat him up a little bit. The second round rolled around, a little striking, took him down and ended up finishing him in a read naked choke in the second round. That’s one of my goals, when I go out there I don’t just want to win fights, I don’t want to squeak out decisions, I want to go out there and prove what I do here at the gym and let it translate into my fighting. I train every single day, like I said, to be the best lightweight in the world. I’m not interested in going out there and winning fights, I’m interested in going out there and dominating. Its not a pride thing, its not a cocky thing, its just a, hey I was put in this sport for a reason. If you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your abilities and really put an exclamation mark on every-single-thing you do because at the end of the day, passion inspires people. You know, whenever people see that passion that you put behind your work whether it be art work, whether it be a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a coach, whatever, whatever people see you dedicating yourself, your whole self to that craft it inspires people to do great things. That’s kind of what I’m trying to do here. You know, I want people to see me as a great fighter and a great man and a man who is not going to sacrifice the gifts God has given him and I’ve been given a lot. I’ve been blessed with a lot of talent and a lot of great people in my life. So, you know, I think that the Rick Hawn fight was another opportunity to finally be on that big stage and finally get people interested in what I’m doing and I believe what I’m doing here is a great thing so I hope people continue to follow my career.”
How did you get in involved with Toyota of Escondido Action Sports? What have you learned about yourself and about Action Sports since becoming a member of the family?
“I’m a big fan of bull riding. I’m a big fan of PBR, I have some friends that ride in PBR, I actually own a bull that is going to be competing in PBR here in a couple of weeks. So I was a huge fan of bull riding and there was a bull riding event up in Pala, Pala Pay-la, whatever its called, that casino. When I got there the first thing I noticed was these two huge Toyota Tacoma’s jacked up looking awesome and the Toyota of Escondido banners. I was like “Aw man, that’s some cool stuff.” I went over, checked out the trucks and whatever. Watching the bull riding, I was there with a friend of mine and we were back there by the chutes and stuff and Damian Campos came up to me and we just started talking, he said “I heard you were a fighter.” and this and that. Right away I had a good feeling. Obviously, to me it sounded too good to be true, you know, get sponsored by an awesome Toyota Dealership down here in Southern California and you know, so to me it sounded to good to be true. Right away we sparked a great relationship, being able to meet him and just the spirit about him, the way he conducted himself, the way he talked, right away I knew, even if it wasn’t going to be a sponsorship he was definitely going to be a friend or someone to keep in touch with down here in Southern California. Ended up getting a meeting, met him, Damian, and Scott Whitehead in a room where we just sat there and talked. Right away you get that feeling, when you are around good people and are trying to be a good person yourself you can really feel, you know, that aura in the room and that’s just kind of what I felt right away. It kind of sounds weird I guess, but you know, one of my goals in this sport, is not just to get sponsorship’s that make me money. Even though that is important, eventually I want to be married and have a wife and children and be able to provide for them but, you know, there is people out there who are doing great things and take pride in their work, and there’s people out there who want to conduct themselves in a certain way. Right away I knew the guys at Toyota of Escondido were those kind of guys and, you know, the fact that it was an awesome dealership down here in Southern California was just the icing on the cake. You know, the friendships I’ve built with them have just been awesome so far, and I’m really proud to wear the black and red of Toyota of Escondido. Like I said, we just sat there and we talked, we talked MMA, we talked life, we talked faith, we talked family. Those are the kinds of things that are so important to me. At the end of the day this fighting thing is only going to last so long and it’s the man that I become because of it here in the next ten years that is really going to carry me into the next stage in my life, so that’s the important stuff you know? Faith and family and fighting, you know, being the third thing. So with my goals and my mindset being in line with theirs was just so awesome, right away I knew this was going to be something that I wanted to pursue. Since then I have been up at the dealership a dozen times just to hang out, just to go get lunch, call in on the phone, talking, just friends. More than anything, it is a business relationship, but more than anything its a friendship and its become a family thing. It’s just awesome to have, like I said, the kinds of people like the guys at Toyota of Escondido in my corner, and it makes me proud to go out there and just go out there and wear the logo on my shirt and wear the logo on my shorts and just be proud to, you know, drive a Toyota Tacoma. It’s been awesome and I can’t wait to continue to see where the relationship goes and how much stronger it gets in the years to come. Yeah, in my relationship with Toyota of Escondido and being sponsored by them now, its really opened up my eyes to the other Action Sports that they’re involved in like the motocross guys. Definitely getting to go to those events and see those guys, the stuff that they do, the crazy tricks, the speed! It sounds so nuts to me. I know people look at me and say, “Man how do you do it? You get punched and kicked in the face for a living.” But to me when I go out and see a guy flying 60 feet in the air at 70 miles per hour that scares me to death. I’m scared to get on any of those dirt bikes and do the things that they do. And when you think about the strength and the core work that they have to do, and the balance and the dedication they have to have in that sport its so closely correlated with Mixed Martial Arts. I have to be in the gym twice a day every single day if I want to become the best lightweight in the world. You know, some of the other guys, the James Stewart’s, they have to be on their bike every single day if they want to become the best in the world. To see a sport like that, to see guys like that who are sponsored by Toyota of Escondido, they go out and they find great guys, great ambassadors of their sport. That’s something that makes me proud to be part of the family. And just the other stuff, I’m sponsored by Monster Energy drink, and being able to see some of those riders that are in the motocross industry and it’s just so cool, it’s opened my eyes to the other realm of Action Sports. I guess, I don’t consider Mixed Martial Arts that crazy to me, maybe its because I do it, but the motocross guys have said that MMA is crazy to them or the bull riders have say that MMA is crazy to them, whereas I whenever I watch them compete and watch what they do and what they do to their bodies and the types of situations they put them in. The danger that is present every single time they perform or they compete is just crazy. It’s really cool, its just a great industry or niche to be a part of. So being part of the Toyota of Escondido family has really had a ton of benefits for me, and not only because of the sponsorship, but also to be able to go out and just see the entertainment, the other parts of Action Sports that they are involved in. It’s really cool and, like I said, I can’t wait to see where the relationship goes and how many more crazy events they bring me to and check out and its some cool stuff and, like I said, I’m just really blessed to be a part of the Toyota of Escondido family.”