Michael Chandler will make his much-anticipated UFC debut against Dan Hooker at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi later this month, according to reports.
The American, a three-time lightweight champion in Bellator, will serve as one half of the co-main event on the January 23 card (January 24 in UAE), which is headlined by the rematch between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. UFC 257 is the final of three events on the upcoming Fight Island.
ESPN reported confirmation of Chandler’s debut early on Monday, although UFC president Dana White first referenced the match-up in an interview with The Schmo last week.
Chandler, whose record stands at 21-5, signed with the UFC in September and had been tipped to fight either Poirier or Tony Ferguson the following month. In late October, he travelled to Abu Dhabi to act as back-up for Khabib Nurmagomedov's lightweight unification bout with Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. Chandler even made weight.
In Hooker, Chandler has been provided a formidable welcome to the promotion. The New Zealander (20-9) has enjoyed significant success since moving up from featherweight in 2017, although he is coming off a defeat to Poirier in June. That decision loss was a Fight of the Year contender.
Before that, Hooker was riding a three-fight win streak, including victories against Paul Felder and Al Iaquinta. Chandler, meanwhile, last fought in Bellator in August, knocking out former UFC champion Benson Henderson in the first round.
UFC 257 concludes a third Fight Island series in Abu Dhabi, and follows events on January 16 and 20. As of yet, no venue for the residency has been confirmed, although the newly built Etihad Arena is expected to host.