Bellator’s Chandler Interested In Testing The Open Market
One of the longest-tenured fighters over at Bellator MMA is looking to expand his horizons. Michael Chandler, a three-time Bellator Lightweight World Champion, has expressed interest in signing with another promotion this year.
Speaking to ESPN, Chandler (20-5) talked about how his contract with Bellator is set to expire following his next fight. The next bout will be against Benson Henderson at Bellator 244 on June 6 from Chicago. It will be a rematch from their Bellator 165 bout in 2016, where Chandler won via split decision. With Bellator since 2010, Chandler believes leaving would be something that is best for him and his family.
“We have had some talks, but it looks like I’m going to be a free agent after this fight,” Chandler stated. “I would love nothing more than to finish my career and retire as a Bellator fighter, and I’ve told that to [Bellator president] Scott Coker, but the simple fact is they have a business to run with checks and balances, and I know my wife and son deserve to be taken care of, and I have a calling in life that might require me to go elsewhere.
“Bellator has taken care of me, and I’ve taken care of them. It’s been the perfect storm of a symbiotic relationship — them having an asset they were not willing to lose, and me being in a situation where the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”
While with Bellator, Chandler has amassed a 17-5 record. The collegiate wrestler from the University of Missouri holds plenty of records with Bellator, including most stoppage wins (12), most title reigns (3), most title bouts (10) and most submission victories in the lightweight divison. He also is second (17) with the most wins in Bellator and in a three-way tie for most submission wins (6).
Chandler is on a one-fight win streak, having beaten Sidney Outlaw via KO at Bellator 237. He is 4-2 in his last six fights and has fought all the top guys in Bellator. That includes Eddie Alvarez (twice, 1-1), David Rickels, Patricky and Patricio Freire and Henderson. Looking at his options outside of Bellator, Chandler sees a number of opportunities.
“I think I’m a guy who could go to [One Championship] and finish my trilogy with Eddie Alvarez, or imagine me fighting guys like [UFC lightweights] Justin Gaethje or Dustin Poirier, and putting on Fights of the Year. And I do think I’m the best guy to solve the puzzle of [UFC lightweight champion] Khabib Nurmagomedov.”
Chandler isn’t focused on talking about his contract yet. if he beats Henderson, it could persuade him to stay. However, the idea of having to wait for a title shot doesn’t sound that enticing. The current Lightweight Champion, Patricio Freire, beat Chandler for the title at Bellator 221. In the 300+ days he has held it, it has not been defended. This is a result of”‘Pitbull” defending his Featherweight Title in a Grand Prix. Chandler understands this, and wants that competitive drive no matter what it takes.
“For me, getting up is an inside job, but it has been hard stepping in the cage with guys who I’ve had to lose against and not a lot to gain,” Chandler stated. “If I had the opportunity to fight Khabib, or anyone ranked No. 1 — I’ve played that in my head a million times. Not since 2011, when I stepped into the cage and fought Eddie Alvarez for the first time and was the extreme underdog — I’ve never quite had that feeling of a 10 since then.”