Michael Chandler doesn’t think fighting Islam Makhachev would compare to being in there with Khabib Nurmagomedov – at least not yet.

Although Makhachev (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC) is on a similar path of dominance, most recently making quick work of Dan Hooker this past Saturday with a first-round submission at UFC 267, Chandler (22-6 MMA, 1-1 UFC) was always excited about the prospect of handing Nurmagomedov his first loss.

Nurmagomedov, the former UFC lightweight champion, retired in October 2020, ending his career with three straight submissions over Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor and Justin Gaethje. No one had an answer for Nurmagomedov’s ground game and while no one has been able to stop Makhachev lately, either, they just don’t have the same aura in Chandler’s eyes.

“No, not even close,” Chandler told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a news conference Wednesday. “Are they similar? Absolutely. Are they brothers and teammates? Yes, absolutely. I mean, what Khabib has accomplished, it wasn’t Khabib’s skillset, it was the mystique that surrounded Khabib’s accomplishments inside the sport – undefeated and making every superhuman guy in the division look like a mere mortal. So, I wouldn’t say he’s the next best thing whatsoever.”

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Chandler did however laud Makhachev’s skillset but thinks he has a lot of work to do if he wants to be talked about in the same light as Nurmagomedov.

“I do think he’s very good,” Chandler said. “Obviously the way that he dispatched Dan Hooker in the first round solidifies himself as a top guy. But when you start comparing those two, he’s just not there yet. This is his first time beating a guy in the top 10, and Khabib did it for however many years before that.”

Chandler will look to re-enter the title picture when he meets Justin Gaethje on the main card of UFC 268 on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews/ESPN+ and early prelims on ESPN+.


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