Every MMA fighter dreams of one day competing in the cage at the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and this year, it will become a reality for Groove Life Influencer and former three-time Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler.
As Michael prepared his mind and body for his first potential UFC fight, he set aside a little time to talk with our team about what it looks like to train before a big event and how he got to where he is today.
He also shared some advice for those of us who have a dream, big or small, and hope to see it succeed.
It’s easy to assume that an interview with a fighter will be all about the physical training that leads to success, but Michael shared his unique perspective. While most of us will never find ourselves in the cage, we can learn from the champion mindset, perseverance, and gratitude that keeps Michael moving forward to the win.
How did Michael get into mixed martial arts?
“My first exposure to fighting was my college roommate - he used to walk about a mile down to Blockbuster and rent all the old UFC VHS tapes and bring them back to our house. I really wasn’t that much into Mixed Martial Arts. I was in love with the sport of wrestling, college wrestling - I wanted to be a College NCAA Division I National Champion.” Michael goes on to share that he trained with UFC Champion Tyron Woodley and Bellator and ONE Championship Champion Ben Askren. He says, “They were both like my big brothers so when they got into this sport I thought I’d give it a try. I fought my first fight three months after I graduated in 2009 and I haven’t looked back since.”
Michael’s journey into pro fighting was unconventional. “I jumped into it,” he says. “I jumped right into pro fights... a lot of people don’t.” Michael added that it wasn’t until he was a few fights in that he realized he could make a career out of MMA fighting. He says, “I saw my two kinda big brothers Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren starting to make a little bit of money, starting to do pretty well…. when you get into the big promotions you can actually sign a decent contract and make decent money. So it was probably 2010 whenever I got the opportunity to sign with Bellator and I had a road straight to the title.” Michael adds, “I fought February, March, and April of 2011 and then I also fought for the world title in November of 2011, and I won my first world title. It was right around my second or third fight that I realized this was something I could really make a career. ‘I’m pretty darn good at it and I actually like fighting inside of a cage.’”
What gives Michael the mindset of a champion?
“I’ll look myself in the mirror and ask myself, “Honestly Michael, did you give everything you possibly could with the talents and the gifts that God gave you?” And I just hope that I can answer that question honestly and without regret.”
When asked what gives him the drive to get to where he is today, his reply was unexpected. “I think just gratitude,” he says. “I think someday I’m going to take my gloves off for the last time. I’m going to be in some arena somewhere and hopefully I will have just won the last fight. I’ll be in a locker room. I’ll look myself in the mirror and ask myself, “Honestly Michael, did you give everything you possibly could with the talents and the gifts that God gave you?” And I just hope that I can answer that question honestly and without regret. I know that day is going to come and I know that God has given me some really really amazing gifts and I have two capable legs and two capable arms to be able to go out in front of a million people to inspire and motivate people through the gifts that I have been given. I think the gratitude that comes from that is what really drives me every day, knowing that I have a great opportunity, a great crowd of witnesses, and I can make an impact in the world with these gifts that God has given me. So I gotta give the best that I possibly can and to give anything less is a sacrifice of those gifts that God has given me.”
Michael taught himself to dream big, and that has paid off.
“I think, being a small guy from a small town who was taught to do very small things, and going outside the county lines and trying to accomplish great things and get notoriety, platform, wealth, success and impact… those things didn’t come natural to me because I wasn’t taught those things. I was surrounded by a lot of people who said quite the opposite: ‘All of those things come with conceitedness, narcissism, rubbing people the wrong way, and pride....
The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized that God created us to do some amazing things and God created us all to make the biggest impact that we possibly can, find our calling, and then run relentlessly toward that calling because in doing so other people can see you trying to attain your calling and then they will in turn also put in that kind of effort and get that kind of passion about their life.
We were created for so much more than we could ever think or imagine and you playing small doesn’t do anything to serve the world. And you playing small actually does a disservice to an Almighty God who created you in His image.”
Michael’s advice to you:
Don’t give up, because hard work will pay off in the end.
“I think the disconnect comes when people say they have the passion, they have the dream, they have the goal in their heart, and then since they work so hard and since they are so passionate about it, they expect it to happen overnight. It’s really taken me a full-on decade to get to where I am and I’ve still got many years ahead of me. Mesh passion persistence with patience and realize that you’re never going to get to where you want to be overnight. There’s really no such thing as an overnight success. Most of the people that you hear of who make it have probably been grinding for a very long time. So, no matter what you’re pursuing, keep the patience in the forefront of your mind. Expect it to take longer than you think it’s going to. Even if you do everything right, even if you completely pour yourself into your passion, even if you completely leave no stone unturned in your preparation and in your diligence and in your pursuit of your dream, it’s still going to take longer than you think. The amount of people that give up right before their breakthrough is astounding. It’s not that people don’t do the right things, it’s that people don’t do the right things for long enough to be able to reach your passion. Hard work will eventually pay off, you just have to still be standing there, ready to accept it when it does.”
Focus on having the right mindset.
“Your physical body is only as good as your mentality will let it be. Build that as much as you possibly can. Read books, watch videos, fill your mind, fill the space inside your mind as much as you possibly can with the positive, the uplifting, and when you’re having setbacks, realize that the setback is only for a short period of time and you can continue to move forward.”
How does Michael prepare for a big fight?
Michael starts training twice a day for weeks ahead of a big fight. He says, “I wake up in the morning about 7am: drink my coffee, take my vitamins and supplements, train from 10 to 12, and then usually I’ve got stuff going on. I have to get my body worked on or I have to do pre-fight medicals or I have to do interviews or podcasts or something - there’s usually something going on 2-3 days a week in-between practices. And then at 5 or 6 pm I train again and then go home, eat dinner, and go to bed, do it all over again. I pretty much only go to the gym, my condo, and the grocery store for about 10 weeks straight.”
Michael also puts a lot of emphasis on his mental preparation. He says, “For me, it’s being around positive people and reading positive publications. Filling my mind as much as I possibly can with the positive. Also focusing on visualization. Visualizing myself in the fight, visualizing myself overcoming adversity, visualizing myself doing my best.”
Why does Michael Chandler wear a Groove Ring?
“It’s bigger than a company, it’s bigger than the products, it’s a way of life and it’s something that really gets me excited and fired up.”
Michael and our founder Peter Goodwin hit it off right away. Michael says, “I met Peter and just sitting down with Peter and just hearing his heart and passion for - not just the product of Groove, not just silicone rings, belts, these awesome, innovative, useful products that they create - but the mission behind Groove Life. The calling behind the company, and the passion behind what he has created, what each and every person that I have come into contact with at Groove… every single person that works for the company has a different light about them. It’s an awesome company to be involved in - to be part of the Groove family. It’s bigger than a company, it’s bigger than the products, it’s a way of life and it’s something that really gets me excited and fired up.”
Michael went on to add that he appreciates the passion Peter and Groove Life have for excellence. He says, “I look at the way that Peter and his team have fought to insert themselves into the forefront of their industry - it is nothing short of inspiring.”
“I’ve got my Groove Ring on at all times.”
Michael Chandler wears a Groove Ring because…
“Obviously from a safety perspective I love wearing a silicone ring but also, for me, I never have to take my Groove Ring off. I can wear it 24 hours a day 7 days a week, 365 days a year and that’s saying something for a guy who works with his hands every day. I’m either lifting or I’m punching a bag or I’m sparring, I’m wrestling, I’m grappling, and I never have to take my ring off. I used to have to take my traditional wedding band off twice a day and I’m very surprised I never lost it. I’d have to take it off and I’d either hook it onto a hook on my bag or I’d put it in my wallet and I was taking it off twice a day, sometimes three times a day. And now I never have to take my Groove Ring off. I leave it on 24/7.”
2. It reminds him of his “Why.”
“Not only is the Groove Ring practical and safe but for me, it has me talking about my son, my wife, the calling on my life. For me, when I get into the deep trenches of the hard workouts, when I’m dead tired and long hours have come and gone, I’m dizzy, I’m about to puke, or I’m in pain, or I’ve pushed myself past my comfort zone, I can look down at my hand and grab my ring, move it around a little bit, adjust it, and look at it and it really reminds my of my Why. It reminds me of my son or my wife, it reminds me of their love, their dedication, their service to me and to the calling on my life that God has given me. So for me, wearing my Groove Ring reminds me of why I started and why I do what I do.”
Michael Chandler stands out as a champion in more ways than one. He is strong and also teachable, confident yet humble, determined to succeed but focused more on eternity. We will be cheering Michael on in the UFC as one of the greatest champions of our day.
Now get out there and apply Michael’s advice! Dream big and don’t give up until your hard work pays off. Your day is coming, too.