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24 Aug, 2021 14:43

‘That’s a big nah for me’: UFC star Michael Chandler clings to Covid vaccine hesitancy despite Pfizer jab receiving FDA approval

‘That’s a big nah for me’: UFC star Michael Chandler clings to Covid vaccine hesitancy despite Pfizer jab receiving FDA approval

Michael Chandler has placed his with rumored fight with Justin Gaethje in New York in doubt after he reiterated his views on refusing to take the Covid-19 vaccine – despite saying his hesitancy was because it wasn't FDA approved.

Chandler is heavily linked to a November fight with fellow lightweight slugger Gaethje in November in what would be the UFC's return to Madison Square Garden.

Covid restrictions currently in place in the Big Apple mandate that workers taking part in indoor events – such as a UFC fight card – must present documentation to prove that they have been vaccinated against the potentially deadly virus. 

This is a sticking point for former Bellator world champ Chandler. Speaking to his fans on an Instagram Live chat earlier this month, the 35-year-old said that he wasn't "anti-vaxx" but that he wasn't going to consider taking a vaccine until it was "100 percent FDA approved".

"But as I said, I’m not anti-vaccine," he added. "I think vaccines are effective. I think it’s everybody’s choice whether they want to take the vaccine. I won’t be vaccinated by November the 6th, so I won’t be able to perform or entertain at Madison Square Garden. So we shall see."

Well, on Monday that day came when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued full clearance to the Pfizer-BioNTech jab after similar assurances had already been awarded by the FDA's European equivalent.

But as far as Chandler is concerned, this changes nothing despite his previous statement to the contrary.

"Not interested at the moment," responded Chandler to a fan who asked if the FDA approval might change his stance.

"That’s a big nah for me," he answered to another.

"I don’t want it," he wrote to a third. "FDA approval or not. Real enough for you? I have no problem with people getting it. We all have a choice... this is mine."

UFC president Dana White has previously stated that he won't be "forcing" his fighters to take a vaccine.

"I would never tell another human being what to do with their body. If you want to get vaccinated, that’s up to you. That’s your choice," said White.

"You’re never gonna hear me say, 'I’m gonna force people to get vaccinated.' Never gonna happen.

"I think a lot of people are doing that. They’re telling you in New York, you can’t go into a restaurant or a gym unless you’re vaccinated and can prove it and things like that. Some people are getting fired if they don’t get vaccinated. That’s not gonna happen here.

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"If you wanna get vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you don’t, that’s your decision, your body."

It remains to be seen, though, whether more states join New York in requiring vaccinations for attending large indoor arena events now that at least one of the many available vaccines has received FDA approval. 

White has typically rolled with the punches when confronted with Covid stumbling blocks to his business model – see last year's 'Fight Island' as an example of this – but if the likes of Las Vegas and California were to adopt similar stances to that of New York, you could very well see events in those regions featuring only fighters who have been vaccinated, while those who aren't would presumably feature on cards in Texas or Florida.

One prominent NFL player described receiving a Covid vaccine shot as a "competitive advantage" - and if vaccine hesitancy costs Michael Chandler the type of high-profile fight with Gaethje that may put him into title contention, it might be difficult to argue otherwise.

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