On the one hand, Michael Chandler has already got the lion by the tail. All he needs to do is wait out Conor McGregor’s indeterminable timetable and he gets the fight of his life. It’s not a bad position to be in.

On the other hand, the seasons do grow long. The shadows, longer still. Those constant trips down to Florida to train start to tax one’s mind and soul. The wheels keep spinning, and Nashville — where Chandler lives — has seen a million acts come and go since he signed the original fight agreement. The lights come on, the lights go off, and the time lapses show streaks of red and white traffic.

Bands have disbanded, philosophies have changed, and Bellator — Chandler’s old stomping grounds — is now in the custody of the PFL. We’ve seen Mars up close and personal like never before, as that planet and this one make their slow runs around the sun. Carl Weathers, Bill Walton and Tom Wilkinson have all since perished in the wait for the fight. Chandler’s kids have grown a few inches and are more and more aware of dad’s ultimate dilemma. Champions have come and gone. Boxing has undergone a resurgence. Saudi Arabia has emerged as a honey hole for prizefighters. Francis Ngannou has shot into his stratosphere of fame only to be humbled by Anthony Joshua.

Somehow, even Sean Strickland — the UFC’s most offensive marble-mouthed avenger — has built a cult following.

All during Chandler’s Lost Weekend. Even yogis can’t be asked to have the kind of patience required to wait out McGregor. Ghandi. The Dalai Lama. The world moves on and there’s Michael Chandler, perfectly locked inside himself, training away for a fight that gets smaller and smaller on his horizon. It’s a sentence, and he’s all out of words. Yet he grins and bears it, even as the gray begins to show on his temples. Even as the memes are made of him as an old man, and people add the word “poor” to the front of his name. Poor Michael Chandler. He told Ariel Helwani that he eats adversity for breakfast, which has about the same nutritional value as John Belushi’s little chocolate donuts.

This is no way to live.

Chandler turned 38 in April, yet the birthday candles he blows out are with a pang of fleeting hope. One day he will get to where he’s going. One day he will fight Conor McGregor, the biggest star of the day, and this will all have been worth it. But for now, the burden of his gamble is distracting his every movement. It’s like he has a million-dollar bet at the book, and — with every fit and start, every delay and postponement, every cancellation and new beginning — his knuckles get a little whiter. The palms sweat. The heartbeat quickens.

All he wants is the ticket to cash. Just let the ticket cash. LET THE TICKET CASH!

Until then Chandler’s on a treadmill in purgatory. He is moving nowhere fast, watching things around him evolve and morph in real time. Dana White has gotten shredded through the 86-hour fast, and Slap Fighting has “literally” overtaken Real Madrid as the most popular thing on social media. Max Holloway jumped up a weight and knocked out Justin Gaethje to become the BMF. Hunter Campbell’s face has now become part of the public record.

Life goes on, and Chandler waits. At this point he’s what the old-timer’s call “pot committed.” To pull out now is to lose the thing forever. To let the last year-and-a-half years of waiting go in vain. A tragedy. A travesty. Standing in the McGregor roiling vortex, hoping to one day punch his face.

Could he end up fighting McGregor at the Sphere in Las Vegas? Could he possibly get Madison Square Garden? These thoughts sustain him. That is, until the doubts creep back in. Where and when will he fight, now that the thing has been pushed off into an already crowded calendar? Does McGregor ever even fight again? Some people don’t think so. Matt Brown says he’s not so sure. Dana White told Jim Rome he isn’t either. With all that money and legacy, his movements are highly unpredictable. Untrackable. Of course, save the ones he shows off on the dance floor. 

Meanwhile there’s Chandler. Hoping that’s none of that’s the case. Blocking out the naysayers. Staying focused on the task at hand. Training his heart out and waiting for the biggest moment of his life. The day life moves forward. He has the lion by the tail, and at this point he can’t let go.

Listen to Chuck on the latest the Ringer MMA show here.