Chelsea Chandler couldn’t help but feel stood up.
After making a successful UFC debut in October 2022, she never really heard anything about another fight for a few months and joked that she felt like she had gone on a first date and never got called back. Eventually, she did get a call to fight Norma Dumont at UFC Fight Night: Holm vs Bueno Silva, and she got right to work.
Although injuries and other hurdles delayed her debut, she wasted no time and earned a first-round TKO win over Julija Stoliarenko. On top of that, the finish was good enough to earn her a Performance of the Night bonus. Chandler hasn’t been resting on her success, though. She has much loftier goals on her mind, which means she is pushing more than ever on the mats.
“I feel like I've had to train harder,” Chandler told UFC.com. “Once you're here, it doesn't get easier. It just gets harder. Your opponents get harder. I've asked for harder opponents, so I've just had to train harder and work my butt off.”
Her next challenge comes in the form of Dumont, a seven-fight veteran in the UFC who has only lost to Megan Anderson and Macy Chiasson during her tenure.
In the frankly shallow featherweight division, nobody has been more active at 145 than Dumont, and Chandler sees her as a chance to put herself in title contention if there’s a championship fight booked for the vacant featherweight title any time soon.
“Norma Dumont has really put in all the work,” Chandler said. “She's fought the who's who of the UFC featherweight division and, in my mind, she's the number one contender. It’s a great fight because I get to take out the number one contender and call for a title shot pretty easily, which is nice, and that doesn't normally happen. I think she's also a hard fight and we've prepared tremendously for this, so I'm ready to take her out and call for a title shot.”
Because Chandler had so much time to prepare, this camp was an exercise in patience and listening to her body.
It’s easy for fighters to want to grind every single day, especially early in their UFC career. Any time spent not working feels like wasted time, but there comes a point where the gains are limited because a fighter is exhausted. Chandler believes she is finding that balance for herself.
“I'm an overworker,” she said. “I'm always training, and I would always get injured. I was like, ‘Why?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I need to learn to like take a step back and not go crazy.’ This fight camp was just about training hard and knowing when to take a back step.”
Chandler is going to be her normally aggressive self when it comes time to fight, however. She understands the dangers Dumont possesses, especially on the feet, but the opportunity is too important for her to fight timidly.
“If she comes and fights me, I think it'll be a great fight,” she said. “Some of her fights are kind of boring and she kind of sits back and throws counter punches and waits. But the thing is, I come forward and I throw a lot of punches and I like to beat my opponents up.”
Ultimately, Chandler is eager to fight. She has a few big names in mind should she get some time on the mic, but more than that, she believes in her abilities to get the job done in eye-pleasing fashion on July 15.
“I think if I just show up that day, it's going to be a great fight,” she said. “It's going to be a good beat down. I'm excited.”