Michael Chandler signs with UFC and goes straight into lightweight title picture

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Former Bellator lightweight champion has signed with the UFC and is immediately being inserted into the title picture at 155lbs.

UFC president Dana White confirmed the signing of the 34-year-old on Thursday after he became a free agent last month.

The American’s first fight is yet to be confirmed, but it is clear how highly White regards him as he has been named as a back-up fighter for the Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Justin Gaethje fight on 24 October at UFC 254 for the lightweight title.

Should either the champion or challenger miss weight or suffer a late injury, Chandler would step in to fight for potentially either the full or interim title.

Chandler has long been considered one of the finest lightweights on the planet, despite never competing in the UFC.

He made his professional debut in 2009 and has been a Bellator fighter since his promotional debut the following year.

Since then he won the Bellator Lightweight Tournament in 2011 and has gone on to become a three-time champion in the organisation at 155lbs.

His KO win over Benson Henderson on 7 August this year took his superb record to 21-5 as a pro and brought his contract with Bellator to an end.

ESPN reporter Brett Okamoto relayed a text from Chandler on Twitter, which read: ‘Eventually hard work pays off, you just have to still be standing there when it does.

‘I’m humbled by the opportunity and can’t wait to go prove what I have been saying for the past 11 years; that I’m the best 155er in the world.’

UFC 254 takes place on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

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