‘He’s got a whole side of the world on his back’: UFC’s Chandler hails Nurmagomedov’s impact as he plots Russian icon’s downfall

New UFC lightweight contender Michael Chandler says that Khabib Nurmagomedov is carrying the expectations of a “whole world and religion” with him – and believes he can beat the man he calls “the greatest lightweight of all time.”

Former Bellator MMA king Chandler could have faced Nurmagomedov in October, when he was praised for his professionalism as he trained diligently while acting as a back-up in the event of the revered Russian or opponent Justin Gaethje pulling out of their fight.

Following Nurmagomedov’s dramatic retirement after that win, new signing Chandler is thought to be in the running for a title shot in the near future – but he believes that the qualities that have taken ‘The Eagle’ to the peak of the sport will also drive him to make a comeback in the division.

“He does thrive on challenges and being a champion,” the 34-year-old, who beat Dan Hooker on his UFC debut on the undercard of Dustin Poirier’s win over Conor McGregor in January, told MMA Fighting.

“He’s got a whole side of the world on his back, a whole religion on his back, he’s got a whole ton of people looking to him for motivation, for inspiration, to be built up.

“The man is nothing short of amazing with what he has accomplished, but he needs a willing and equal dance partner.

“I’ve been on record, numerous times, saying he is the greatest lightweight of all time.

“He’s looked unbeatable in 99 percent of the moments that he has spent inside of the UFC octagon over the last 12 years.”

Like Poirier and McGregor, Chandler knows that his performances need to convince Nurmagomedov that he would be capable of pushing the 29-fight unbeaten retiree.

Heaping praise on Nurmagomedov’s fearsome fitness and physicality, he warned that Charles Oliveira, who has been linked to a scrap with the most in-demand name in the sport, would not be able to match him.

“He’s one of the greatest competitors, one of the most mentally tough and physically imposing, physically gifted people we have ever seen,” said Chandler.

“Is there anybody who can match the strength, power, athleticism-wise, body awareness wise, plus the cardio, plus the tenacity to be able to go into the deep waters?

“Get taken down, get back up. Take him down and he gets back up. Just this constant grind match of a 25-minute championship level fight in the unified rules of mixed martial arts.”

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