UFC lightweight Michael Chandler is predicting he will win the 155-pound championship against Charles Oliveira on May 15, and then make his first title defense against Conor McGregor before the end of the year.
"I think it's Conor," said Chandler, when asked how his 2021 campaign will close out. "I think there are a few little things Conor can do to win [the trilogy against Dustin Poirier]. So, I think it's Conor McGregor, later this fall or winter. That's probably wishful thinking, and if it's Dustin Poirier, I'm excited about that opportunity as well.
"We'll see. If I put my money on it, I think it's Conor. I think he makes small adjustments, gets the win in the trilogy. That's what I believe."
McGregor (22-5) is expected to face Poirier (27-6) in a non-title fight on July 10. Their series stands at 1-1 after Poirier knocked out McGregor in the second round of a bout on Jan. 23. The winner of the trilogy would almost certainly be in line for a title shot, although former interim champion Justin Gaethje is also in the mix.
Of course, Chandler (22-5) has a stiff test ahead of him in Oliveira (30-8) at UFC 262 in Houston. Oliveira, of Brazil, is actually a small favorite to defeat Chandler in their vacant title fight. The title was recently vacated by retired former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Oliveira, 31, has won eight fights in a row. Chandler says he respects what Oliveira has done, but believes he has a tendency to give up if fights aren't going his way.
"If you look at the [Paul Felder loss in 2017], he tapped to strikes," Chandler said. "You look at numerous fights, if he can't impose his will on you, there comes a point he looks at you and decides, 'OK, you've won this one. I'll collect half of a paycheck and go home.' I think there will be multiple moments in this fight that he'll see it in my eyes, he'll feel the power I possess, and feel I only get better while he's on a fast journey straight down to panicking. I think that's what's going to happen. We shall see."
Chandler, who fights out of south Florida, is a former multiple-time Bellator MMA champion. He signed with the UFC in 2020 and made his debut against Dan Hooker in January, scoring a first-round knockout.