Michael Chandler left the hospital room not sure what to think. He'd spent time talking and trading stories with a 7-year-old named Robbie, who was not unlike most boys his age.
He liked all the things most 7-year-olds liked, and at one time was full of energy and vigor.
But Robbie was dying of cancer.
Michael was struck by how much Robbie wanted to hear him talk, by how warm and sincere Robbie's smile was, by how genuine he was and by how much it meant to Robbie that Michael had taken the time to visit.
Truth be told, Robbie made Michael feel good, too. Michael couldn't forget the smile, despite how weak Robbie was and how poorly he must have been feeling.
Michael, though, was also saddened, torn apart by seeing a 7-year-old in pain and fighting for his life.
"I've been blessed in my own life," said Michael, now the Bellator lightweight champion. "My family has been very healthy and I haven't lost anyone [to cancer]. I know there are people who fight that every day and I wanted to do something to try to help."
And so the St. Louis resident and two-time captain of the University of Missouri wrestling team sought to find a way he could make an impact.
"That was a very special day for me and I enjoyed spending time with him," Michael said.
Two weeks later, though, Michael received a distressing phone call: Robbie Chandler (no relation) had died.
Michael was, at the same time, shaken and filled with a steely resolve. He was upset that a young boy with so much promise and potential had died, and had suffered so much in his young life. But Michael Chandler had a new determination to help.
Out of that determination -- the same resolve that helped him rally to defeat Eddie Alvarez and win the Bellator title Nov. 19 in one of 2011's great fights -- came the birth of the clothing line, Blessed Threads.
Chandler has the word "Blessed" tattooed on his upper left chest. He and a close friend, Mark Ellis, who has the tattoo on his arm, had T-shirts made with the same design as the tattoo. Quickly, friends were asking for the shirts.
After learning of Robbie Chandler's death, Michael Chandler spun into action. He decided to make a donation to Friends of Kids with Cancer, a St. Louis-based charity, for every T-shirt he sold.
He hoped, he said, to inspire those who wore the "Blessed" T-shirts to realize how good they had it and to spread the joy.
"I've been blessed in my own life, and I believe that much is expected of those to whom much has been given," he said.
His fighting career has taken off after a stellar career as a wrestler at Missouri, where he was an All-American and compiled a record of 100-40. He became just the 16th wrestler in Missouri history to win 100 matches.
After deciding to take a shot in mixed martial arts, he moved to Las Vegas to train at Xtreme Couture. He's 9-0 and has finished seven of his nine fights.
One of those finishes came at Bellator 58 against Alvarez, the brilliantly talented lightweight who was, along with Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, regarded as one of the two finest 155-pounders in the world outside of the UFC.
The win, he said, was a reward for his hard work, but he said it hasn't changed his life. He hasn't been swarmed for autographs and said he's still able to go to the grocery store or the gas station largely unnoticed.
It certainly didn't change his life the way that meeting Robbie Chandler did. No matter how successful he becomes, that will be a day he'll never forget.
Chandler brought his belt to show Robbie, as well as an iPad so he could show his bout with Alvarez.
Robbie Chandler watched intently, Michael said, a smile covering his small face.
Robbie Chandler's enthusiasm and fighting spirit lives on in Michael, the Bellator champion who is determined to be a difference maker.
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