UFC fighter Chandler battles doubts, clings to faith

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Michael ChandlerBy Michael Ashcraft —

Some dragons you can slay once and for all, others, come back.

That’s what Christian UFC lightweight contender Michael Chandler says. He should know.

Plagued by a small-town mentality for most of his life, Chandler — who is widely regarded in the arena of glove-less grapple — went 688 days without a win. He suffered three straight losses.

“That small guy from that small town inside my brain still tugs at me from time to time,” he says on the Ed Mylett podcast. “It was definitely the hardest time of my life. Some dragons, you slay and you slay them they’re dead. You cut them off at the head. You never see them again.

“But then some dragons you just get good at pinning them,” he adds. “I’m probably never ever going to be able to slay him, but I have gotten really, really good at duct-taping him to the basement of my mind, with a big old roll of duct tape and taping over his mouth.”

Today, Chandler fights, owns a mixed martial arts gym, and speaks on the motivational circuit. He’s a devout Christian who says God called him into the arena to use it as a platform to talk about Jesus.

“God pulled me into this sport and pushed me in the direction of mixed martial arts to be put on a platform not just to be good, but to be great, not just to be great, but to be impactful,” he says.

A God-fearing man feared by many men, Michael Chandler was born in High Ridge, Missouri, population 4,300. His father was a union carpenter.

Michael Chandler and his wife Brie Willet

In high school, he played football and wrestled, the latter at which he excelled, being selected to the All-St. Louis Team his senior year. He walked on to the University of Missouri wrestling squad, where he collected 100 wins and was four-time NCAA Division I qualifier.

Training in mixed martial arts, he excelled at Strikeforce in 2009 and then Bellator MMA where he won his first 12 bouts.

“I came out shot out of a cannon, won my first 12 fights, finished most of most of them in the first period or in the first round,” he remembers.

There was a buzz in the fight media. Was Michael the next big unbeatable?

Then came the slump. The man of righteousness with the wicked right punch let the talk inside his head get to him.

The way Michael sees it, Eddie Alvarez didn’t beat him. He beat himself.

Maybe you’re on the canvas, covid hurt your business, or you’re going through a divorce. How do you get back to winning?

After three losses, Michael recovered his winner’s mentality with the help of a coach. He beat Derek Campos to ratchet up more wins.

People wanted him to move to the big leagues, to Ultimate Fighting Championship.

But something held him back. Like the guy who’s scared to make the big real estate deal or become the millionaire, Michael felt a 3G force pulling him back to High Ridge. Who did he think he was to fight on the highest stage?

In January of this year, Michael finally threw not his hat, but his entire self, into the ring and pulverized Dan Hooker by TKO at 2:30 in the first round.

“My prayer before the fight isn’t, ‘God gave me the victory or God let my opponent stumble.’ My prayer is, ‘God just let me perform like I trained. Let me perform in a manner that is consistent with the way that You see me, God, and that is consistent with my gifts and my abilities that You’ve blessed me with.”

Prayer precedes victory, especially if your fight is spiritual.

“I just need to be the best version of myself that night inside the octagon,” he says. “I need to be the Michael Chandler with zero hindrances, zero second-guessing, zero fears and only faith and excitement about becoming my best self.”

Michael married Brie Willett in 2014, and the couple, living now in Nashville, adopted a son in 2018.

Michael lost his fight to Charles Oliveira on May 15 of this year. He’ll be training to win again.

If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here

Also, read about UFC’s Mark Munoz or Holly Holm.

Reporter Michael Ashcraft is a pastor and a financial professional based in Los Angeles.

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