Michael Chandler knows all about the Saitama Super Arena. The venue hosted some of the biggest K-1 and Pride cards during the days when the the MMA scene in Japan was the envy of the world.

On Sunday he will finally get to fight in this iconic venue. The highly ranked and regarded lightweight faces Sidney Outlaw in the main event of Bellator Japan,

“When you think about the mecca, kind of the grass roots of where mixed martial arts started and some of the greatest fights of all time, you think about the Saitama Super Arena. This is an awesome opportunity and I can’t wait to get out there and do it,” he said.

He was scheduled to face Benson Henderson. But fans were denied a rematch of the 2016 classic when Chandler’s original opponent pulled out with an injury.

Instead Chandler finds himself facing up and coming lightweight Sidney Chandler and he has sympathy for Henderson,

“It is part of the game. We are in a sport that is a tough one and sometimes, injuries happen and it’s happened to me on numerous occasions. I’m just happy that we found a replacement.”

Michael Chandler pads

Phenomenal training

Chandler says the transition in training for Henderson to preparing for Outlaw was seamless,

“I’ve got a new opponent and I’ll have had four weeks total to prepare for him, specifically. The first half of camp went phenomenal training for Benson Henderson, now the second half of camp has gone phenomenal training for Sidney Outlaw.”

Outlaw is riding a ten fight winning streak. In his Bellator debut last month he scored a decision win over Roger Huerta and Chandler paid close attention to that contest,

“He wants to wrestle, he wants to get his hands on you and try to wrestle you to the ground. That’s what he did against Roger Huerta and that’s what he did in a couple of his other fights.”

As a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler Chandler should have no worries in that department.

“I’m a guy who’s able to go out there and put violent pressure on him and I think it’s going to be unlike anything he’s ever experienced. I’m a different animal in there and I believe that I’m the upper echelon of the lightweight division in the entire world.”

Michael Chandler workout

History buff

Chandler might not have competed in the UFC but he is no stranger to fight fans in his homeland. The two battles with Eddie Alvarez will both go down in the annals of MMA history.

He is clearly the marquee name in this matchup and knows Outlaw will be looking to spoil his legacy,

“He’s a game opponent, he’s a tough opponent, he’s young, he’s hungry, he’s on a winning streak and he gets the opportunity of a lifetime. He gets to fight a big name, in a big arena and probably a much bigger paycheck than he ever has had because he had to step up for this fight.”

Chandler actually got a taste of the Japanese MMA scene when he attended the ONE: ‘Century’ Part II event earlier this year. He likes what he saw and is looking forward to competing on a similar stage himself,

“I’ve been in the arenas with those fans and it’s just really cool, and I’m excited to be the one inside the cage, I’m excited to be the one who’s competing in front of the crowd and I’m excited to be the one that can get the crowd behind me.”

He knows all about the history of the Saitama Super Arena. It’s an iconic venue and Chandler has already started learning the local lingo in preparation for a possible victory speech,

“I’ve loved the culture and history of martial arts since the beginning and once I started getting into the sport, fighting in Japan was on my bucket list. I’ve actually been trying to brush up on a little bit of Japanese to be able to speak to the crowd and try my hand at that, so we’ll see!”