Mike Chandler came out of nowhere earlier this year to win the Bellator season four lightweight tournament. The tournament featured well-respected Patricky Freire, veteran Rob McCullough, highly-touted Marcin Held, and Bellator stand-out Toby Imada among others. In the end though, it was Chandler who stood tall by taking out Held, Lloyd Woodard, and Freire.
By defeating those three men and winning the tournament, Chandler earned a Bellator lightweight title shot against champion, and top-ranked 155 fighter Eddie Alvarez on October 15.
Helping Chandler prepare for the biggest fight of his life is boxing and MMA coach at Xtreme Couture, Gil Martinez, one of the most knowledgeable and respected coaches in the sport.
“Mike is a pleasure to work with,” said Martinez in an exclusive interview with FiveOuncesofPain.com. “He’s one of the hardest working athletes I’ve ever worked with. He’s in there day in and day out and doesn’t complain.”
Martinez has never doubted Chandler, saying, “He could have done anything. He could have done well in any sport. I could see that Chandler really wanted to be a force in MMA, that he wanted to go far, and next thing you know he won the Bellator tournament.”
A student of MMA and boxing, Martinez has worked with some of the best strikers in the world, including Vitor Belfort. So what’s it like training a veteran striker with quick hands and explosive power like Belfort and training someone like Chandler, who comes from a wrestling background?
“The biggest difference is that Vitor is seasoned and well-rounded. You can work on new things and teach him different things to help him improve. But with a wrestler like (Gray) Maynard or Chandler, you have to start from scratch, but they’re so motivated to learn,” said Martinez.
Chandler’s opponent on October 15 is not only the Bellator lightweight champion, but he’s also only lost twice in his career and has won seven straight bouts in the Bellator cage.
Despite that winning streak, Gil doesn’t believe that Alvarez has fought anyone like Chandler. “Mike is going to really test Alvarez. No disrespect to Alvarez’ last few opponents, but everyone he’s fought recently has been on the way down or not in a good place or time in their life. But with Mike, he’s young, talented, tough, and hungry.”
Considered to be one of the best boxers in MMA, with a wrestling background to go along with his hands, Alvarez is a tough match-up for anyone in the sport. But Martinez knows that his fighter stacks up well against the champion.
“Alvarez is the more experienced striking but Chandler is the better wrestler and his striking is getting better every day,” said Martinez. “Everyone thought Pitbull (Patricky Freire) was going to out-strike Chandler and he proved them wrong. And now we’ve had even more time to improve that striking.”
Maybe it’s just a coach believing in his fighter, but under the guidance of Gil, don’t be shocked if there’s a new Bellator champion on October 15 in New Jersey.
*PHOTO CREDIT – BELLATOR*