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Michael Chandler couldn’t have asked for a better UFC debut performance. The former Bellator lightweight champion finally made the move to his new home in 2020, after years of fan speculation, and was rewarded with a co-headliner to Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier’s blockbuster rematch at UFC 257.
As soon as the bout started, Chandler immediately rushed the Octagon with his typical pressure and managed to find his opponent’s jaw, New Zealand’s Dan Hooker, with a pinpoint left hook in just under 3 minutes. Hooker, usually an extremely tough and durable fighter, crumbled to the ground. It was the first time he’d ever been finished in the first round.
Following Chandler’s knock-out victory, which also earned him a Performance of the Night bonus award, he took to the mic for the post-fight interview and started calling out all the other lightweight fighters, including retired 155 pound king, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Other fighters might think twice before calling out an undefeated champion who has dominated everyone he’s faced and has barely lost a round in his entire UFC, but Chandler’s unwavering confidence in his abilities to become the world champion is what got him here in the first place. For the Nashville fighter, years of sacrifice and steadfast discipline have prepared him for this very moment.
There are times when I miss so many weddings and so many birthday parties. We missed Christmas this year with my family or my wife’s family because of my fight camp. There are a lot of sacrifices.Fighter Michael Chandler Previews Bellator MMA Live | CMT
For an example of Chandler’s dedication to the MMA lifestyle, just look at his willingness to cut weight (an arduous process in and of itself) for UFC 254, only to serve as a back-up fighter in case one of the headliners – Khabib or Justin Gaethje missed weight or couldn’t make the walk to the Octagon. As Yahoo Sports put it — “He’s flown halfway around the world, is spending two weeks away from his family, going through the torture of a weight cut and is almost certainly not going to fight, just on the off-chance an opportunity at the title arises.”
Unlike a lot of MMA fighters however, Chandler doesn’t have any trouble with his weight cut. “I don’t have a problem making weight because I’m the most disciplined person you’ve ever talked to,” he told MMA Fighting. “I’m the most disciplined person in mixed martial arts. I haven’t enjoyed a meal in eight weeks. And that’s the kind of discipline you have to have. That’s the kind of regimen, that’s the kind of diet, that’s the kind of plan that you have to put in place.”
Michael Chandler’s training camp routine
While Chandler is usually training throughout the year — with or without a bout lined up — his fight camp generally starts three months beforehand. “For each fight, 12 weeks out, you start to clean up the diet,” he said in an interview with CMT. “Eight weeks out, you clean everything up — your sleep schedule, workout schedule, diet — everything is on point. You start really focusing mentally on ways to win this fight and how you’re going to win.”
According to a Muscle & Fitness interview, Chandler’s training routine has the ex-Bellator champion training six days a week, with double sessions on Monday to Friday, and once on Saturday. Sundays are rest and recovery days — he foam rolls before and after each training session, has a sports massage and also visits a chiropractor every week.
“I’d get a massage every Saturday. I stretched more, I used my roller more, I used my lacrosse ball more,” Chandler said in 2015, describing his training routine overhaul. “I’d get in the sauna more frequently, I stayed hydrated, I supplement right and take all my amino acids and protein shakes-all the things I used to not do, I’m doing.”
In addition to working on his striking, grappling and other aspects of MMA fighting, Chandler also trains with his coach, Jeff Bristol, on strength and conditioning throughout the week. The pair work together on exercises like squats, trap bar deadlifts, medicine ball slams and box jumps.
The priority is “building a good foundation of strength,” says Bristol, who tailors the volume and intensity accordingly over the course of training camp. “I always promote the notion that strength plus speed equals power,” Bristol told Muscle & Fitness.
Chandler is also joining an increasing number of MMA fighters who are easing back on heavy sparring during training camp, or are cutting it out altogether like Max Holloway did for his rematch against Alexander Volkanovski and unbelievable performance against Calvin Kattar.
“The worst thing you can do is put unneeded miles on yourself at the gym,” said Chandler, explaining his reason to focus on lighter sparring sessions. “I don’t spar with guys who are trying to take my head off. I spar hard in the sense that I have a high output. I throw a lot of punches and kicks and takedowns to keep my heart rate up.”
Michael Chandler’s training camp diet
When it comes to his diet, Chandler, a big lightweight fighter who typically walks around at 185 pounds, has to be strict about what he can and can’t put into his body to make the 155 pound cut-off. “No bad foods,” he told CMT. “None of that stuff because I have to go from 185 to 155, which is 30 pounds. A lot of it is bringing my body fat down, and the rest is just water weight.”
A typical daily meal plan for Chandler includes small meals of protein and vegetables five times a day. “We’re talking chicken and broccoli, ground turkey and broccoli, ground beef and broccoli or cauliflower,” he said. “I eat about every three to four hours. I don’t drink anything besides my protein shakes or amino acids. The good thing is coffee is always allowed.”
“As I’ve gotten older I realize that 80% of my weight management is having good supplementation and nutrition,” Chandler told Muscle & Fitness.
“I look back now, and I’m honestly a little embarrassed that I was a professional athlete not taking protein supplements or amino acids and that kind of stuff,” he admitted in an interview with Bloody Elbow. His supplements now include: amino acids and protein powder for muscle recovery, turmeric and ginger for inflammation, as well as multivitamins for general health purposes.
As fighters, we spend so many hours at the gym and within the quiet of our own minds, exercising discipline and just working so hard. Whenever you get the opportunity to compete, you want it to be on the biggest stage possible. That’s why I came to the UFC, it’s the biggest stage possible.Catching Up with Michael Chandler Ahead of his Octagon Debut at UFC 257 | Sports Illustrated
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