On Saturday November 15, 2014 Bellator Season Eleven will come to an end following Bellator 131 at Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, CA.

The match that every Bellator fight fan is clamoring to see is the lightweight title rematch between current champion Will Brooks and former champion Michael Chandler.

After starting his career with 12 consecutive victories Chandler has lost his last two bouts; losing his lightweight title to Eddie Alvarez and dropping a tough split decision to Brooks for the interim title in his last outing. Chander is looking for redemption this time around and with a full camp to prepare for Books, he is confident the outcome will be different this time around.

“There’s a lot of areas and we’ve went over it time and time again in the training room and in the gym and my coaches are confident,” Chandler told The MMA Corner. “I’m very confident. It’s going to be a great fight no matter what, it’s going to be a great night right here in San Diego. The things that I bring to the table are what they are; we’re always violent, we’re always moving forward and we’re always putting the pressure on people. But I’ve never been this good technically, I’ve never put together my striking to my takedowns to my grappling to my striking the way that I have right now at this point in my career. Will Brooks brings a lot to the table; he’s a tough competitor, a tough opponent. But I don’t think he will be able to come out the victor on Saturday night. I’m too good, we’re too in shape and we’re too technical; we’re in too good of a place to lose.”

For an unbeaten fighter, learning how to come back from a loss can be a difficult experience and Chandler found that out against Brooks in their first meeting. Chandler was expected to face Alvarez in a rematch but Alvarez suffered a concussion a week out from the bout and he was replaced by Brooks.

Brooks made good on the opportunity, stealing the victory from Chandler in a hard fought back and forth bout. But Chandler has taken the losses in stride and he is ready to get back into the win column.

“I’ve learned so much,” Chandler said. “Just going through them and trying to bounce back from them and the crazy way that they happened; how close they were and how good the fights were. It’s been a very big learning experience and for me, the last fight had to do with the lack of preparation. I’ve just been able to fix some things that I’ve needed to on my body, balance out my body and I feel better than I’ve ever been physically. And with that comes gains emotionally and spiritually. I’m just feeling so much better, more confident. I love this sport even more than I ever have, and continue to be reminded of why I got into this sport and that’s to have the opportunity to do something great and to not squander it. Just training my tail off enjoying life. Putting my body through hell on earth these last eight weeks and it’s been great.”

A big reason for Chandler’s confidence coming into this bout is his team; training at Alliance MMA in San Diego, he is surrounded with top fighters and elite coaches. But the biggest reason for his confidence has to do with the addition of a new strength and conditioning coach.
“I got some great coaches in Eric del Fierro and Adrian Melendez on the feet as far as kickboxing and boxing goes,” Chandler said. “We’re constantly improving, constantly getting better; more crisp combinations, adding the punches, the knees, and the elbows and making them all work together. Then on the grappling side of it, I have the best ground coach in the world, Neil Melanson, and we have a newer system that we have implemented and just a different ground game. Still violent, still in your face, still punching, still choking, same old vintage Michael Chandler, but just new things, more advanced things that we’ve added. That’s the technical side, but more than anything, physically I think I’ve become a better athlete as far as explosion, as far as strength, as far as quickness, as far as balance. Changing up my strength and conditioning coach and working with Todd Durkin and Jeff Bristol at Fitness Quest 10 right here in San Diego and they’ve literally taken my body and molded it into so much more of a well-oiled machine. From head to toe, I feel balanced, I feel fast, I feel explosive and then you add being able to perform at that level in your sparring sessions and in your grappling sessions, that’s when you make the most gains. When your body is able to do what it’s supposed to do and compete at a high level. That’s what I wasn’t able to do last training camp and it’s just a breath of fresh air and it’s exciting.”

The new training regime has been so effective that Chandler is feeling like a kid again.

“I keep joking with people that I feel like I’m 18 again, but it’s really not a joke,” Chandler said. “People laugh, but I feel like I’m 18 again. Things that used to bother me, as a fighter you put your body through freaking crap, you bang up your knee, you bang up your leg, you bang up your elbow, you bang up your back. You wake up the next day after a sparring session and you feel like you got hit by a Mac truck; I’ve implemented supplementation as far as amino acids and proteins and glutamines and fish oils and just all these things my strength and conditioning coach has pretty much put into my game. With that comes less soreness, less aches, which gives you a better attitude and better focus. With better focus, you can get better with your techniques, and it’s just been a constant revolving door and a constant endless cycle of awesomeness. It’s been great and I feel so much better and my body doesn’t ache like it used to. I can pretty much do the splits now, like I’ve never been able to do before. I’ve put muscle on but somehow become more flexible.”

Aside from getting the opportunity to avenge a loss and fight for a title, Chandler is relishing the opportunity he has been given to fight in front of a home crowd in his home city of San Diego.

“It’s cool, just the little things,” Chandler said. “Like last night, Dominick (Cruz) and I did some wrestling drills, some sequence wrestling from punches to wrestling drills and before I got into the cage, two little girls and a little boy came up to me with a magic marker and one of those little 7×7 cutouts of the poster and asked me for signatures. It’s just these cool little things like we’re here in San Diego, the people of San Diego, the people of Alliance, the people of Southern California area love mixed martial arts, their parents love mixed martial arts, their kids love mixed martial arts, it’s a culture down here and for me to be living right here in the middle of it, for me to be living literally eight miles from the arena we will be fighting in. For me to be able to have a home cooked meal anytime fight week if I want it, for me to come back and do laundry any time if I want it, to come back and see my wife any time if I want it. Train at my own gym, cut weight at any gym that I want to or at my gym if I want to, it just makes things so much different and it changes things. As well as the fact there is going to be a lot of people cheering for me because I’m from San Diego, a lot of blue Blessed shirts floating around. Hopefully it’s just a big sea of blue Blessed shirts and everybody just cheering my name. I’m gonna come out with a win and raise that belt up above my head up high and show it to all the San Diego fans.”

On Saturday night Chandler will step into the Bellator cage looking to recapture the title that was once around his waist. For Chandler the winning the title would be a symbol of all the blood, sweat and tears he has put into this sport.

“That belt is a symbol of hard work and success,” Chandler said. “You can’t win the belt without doing things right and going out there and performing at a high level and winning fights. That’s really what I’m here to do. I got into this sport to become the best in the world and make an impact. I’m more motivated to do that right now, today, than I was when I first got into this sport. My hunger, my passion to win this title back, to put a stamp on my career and get back into the win column. Show the world and show the fans that these two last fights, both guys were great opponents, both guys are tough and both fights were close, but quite frankly I believe in my heart of hearts that I’m better than them. Not just better than them, but a lot better than them. It’s why I’m in this sport and I’m the best I’ve ever been and that belt is going to be around my waist and it’s going to be a sweet, sweet feeling.”

Chandler’s road to the title didn’t begin when he took up MMA, it began back in his college days wrestling for the University of Missouri.
“I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today without Mizzou (University of Missouri) wrestling,” Chandler said. “Just the sport of wrestling, I think if I would have wrestled anywhere Division I I would have become a better competitor, but to go even deeper than that, actually specifically wrestling at Mizzou under Brian Smith, wrestling with guys like Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren, guys that push themselves to the limit and they push you to the limit. Just the culture of hard work. It wasn’t one of those white collar schools that had a lot of money or had a lot of scholarships to give out. It’s wasn’t like the Oklahoma States or the Iowas that have a long tradition of being National Champs every year or every other year. Brian Smith wasn’t your John Smith or Dan Gable guy who had solidified himself yet, but he has now. We were a blue collar team; you show up, you shut up and you work your tail off. And if he tells you to climb that rope 155 times then you climb it 155 times. And if he tells you to run through a brick wall then you run through a brick wall. That is what has made me successful in this sport.”

Between his past experience under Coach Smith at Missouri and his current time training at Alliance MMA, Chandler is a force to be reckoned with. But Chandler has been a different person ever since Durkin came into his life and Durkin’s influence has taken him to a new level. “Most recently a guy who has literally changed my life is Todd Durkin,” Chandler said “If you have any interest in the fitness world or anything of that kind of stuff, he’s the guy you go to and you listen to him speak because he knows how the body works from head to toe. He’s a man of integrity, he’s a man who will get you pumped up. You can’t be around him without feeling better about yourself, you can’t be around him without feeling inspired and excited about the challenges ahead of you. He’s not just a strength coach, he’s a motivator, he’s a good friend, he’s a spiritual leader, a spiritual mentor of mine. He’s been the biggest influence in my life these last couple of months. I look at my body as the house that Durkin built.”

Michael would like to thank his coaches and his training partners, his sponsors, everybody who has followed him to this point and the fans of San Diego. Follow Chandler on Twitter: @MikeChandlerMMA

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.