Michael Chandler has filmed himself charging excitedly to a door to be given his freedom by a UFC medical official on Fight Island, escaping a 48-hour quarantine as he provides backup for Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje.
Ever-enthusiastic three-time Bellator lightweight champion Chandler is waiting in the wings should lightweight king Nurmagomedov or interim champion Gaethje withdraw from their long-awaited title clash on Saturday.
The newly-installed contender had spent two days in quarantine as part of isolation regulations around Covid-19, and appeared to be given the all-clear to leave his room as he received a knock on the door by a visitor offering him a green wristband.
Shirtless Chandler pointed at his watch and hurried towards the door to receive the good news, where he was told: “Mr Chandler – you’re free.”
When you are in quarantine for 48 hours you forget how great it feels to crack pads with your coach. – We get our freedom today and we will most assuredly get after it. – Hope y’all are having a great day. – See you at the top! – #mma #ufc #ufcfightisland #ufc254 #fightisland #inabudhabi
The UFC employee, who was wearing a mask, held out the band and insisted: “This stays on at all times, plus a mask.”
“Let’s go, baby,” said Chandler, who called the morning “quarantine freedom day” and has confessed his impatience to have company again in his final training sessions this week at the facilities provided by the UFC in Abu Dhabi.
Chandler is targeting a future meeting with unbeaten Russian Nurmagomedov, who he considers as the best current fighter in the world, even if his preparations to potentially step in at UFC 254 do not result in a fight.
He described Abu Dhabi as “absolutely gorgeous” when he arrived, and was required to take another Covid-19 test after he was allowed out of confinement ahead of media obligations and the weigh-in later this week.
When you get the knock on the door you’ve been waiting 48 hours for. – Feels good to be free. Let’s get fight week going! – See you at the top! – ?: @randelaleman – #mma #ufc #ufc254 #fightisland #ufcfightisland #wabudhabi #inabudhabi
“We’re about to take our fifth coronavirus test,” he told fans.
“We took one in Florida before we got on the flight, one in Vegas when we got to Vegas and two in Abu Dhabi so far.
“Now we’re about to take our third test in Abu Dhabi.”
Chandler looked trim and ready to make weight ahead of what could be his debut for the promotion, although former light heavyweight and middleweight champion Chael Sonnen has claimed that Nurmagomedov is also open to fighting the former wrestling champion down the line should he beat his training partner, Islam Makhachev.
2:30am wake up, 16 hour flight. – Made it to Abu Dhabi and it’s absolutely gorgeous here. – Covid test and 48 hour quarantine at the @wabudhabi – Excited for a great #ufc254 Fight Week. – See you at the top! – #fightisland #ufc #ufcfightisland #mma #wabudhabi #inabudhabi
“He said, ‘There’s no one I’m closer to than Islam,'”, Sonnen revealed on YouTube.
“And he said, ‘I’m telling you right now, if Michael Chandler beats Islam, I will view Michael Chandler [as] the number one contender, and I want you to get the message out.’
“I said, ‘OK, Khabib, when I get the message out, I’m going to say you called me, you told me this.’
“He goes, ‘That’s what I’m doing. Get that message out.'”