Michael Chandler: Former Champion Makes the Right Call To Stay With Bellator

By Raphael Garcia

Mixed martial arts free agency continues to be a development worth paying attention to, as each year more and more competitors are willing to gamble on themselves and try to make more money on the free market. This year, one of Bellator MMA’s biggest names came close to hitting the open market, only to return to the promotion where his name was made. On Wednesday afternoon, news broke that Michael Chandler re-signed with Bellator and will head back to the organization where he’s a former champion and headliner.

The former two-time champion Chandler last appeared for the promotion in April at Bellator 197, where he scored a first-round submission win over Brandon Girtz to close out his contract. According to Brett Okamoto of ESPN, Bellator President Scott Coker confirmed that Bellator had been in negotiations with Chandler since that time.

“I’m happy that we were able to come to terms with Michael Chandler on a few fight contract. One day, Michael will be a part of Bellator’s Mount Rushmore. He is truly in the prime of his career, so now I look forward to sitting down with the team and putting together a plan for when fans can expect to see Michael in big fights soon.”

“Iron” Michael Chandler is widely considered one of the best fighters to never step foot inside of the UFC’s Octagon. He boasts an 18-4 professional record, and is currently ranked within the Top 10 of many outlets’ rankings at 155 pounds; ESPN has Chandler ranked at #7 in the world. He made his MMA debut in 2009, and joined Bellator a year later. Since then, he has been a force inside of Bellator’s circular cage. After putting together five straight wins in the promotion, he shocked many in the MMA world at Bellator 58 when he defeated Eddie Alvarez via fourth-round submission to win his first Bellator title. This fight is still regarded as one of the best fights in the promotion’s history. He and Alvarez also had a highly-regarded rematch in 2013 at Bellator 106, where Alvarez earned a split-decision victory to capture the lightweight title before leaving the promotion in free agency. Chandler’s Bellator resume includes big wins over the likes of Benson Henderson, Marcin Held, Rick Hawn, and Akihiro Gono.

After regaining the title in 2016 with a win over Patricky Freire at Bellator 157, Chandler lost it in highly controversial fashion to Brent Primus at Bellator 180. He had been slated for a rematch at that Bellator 197 event in April, before Primus pulled out of the bout due to injury.

This re-signing creates an intriguing situation for Bellator, as the company is also poised to make a move on Alvarez, now that he is no longer contracted with the UFC. A long-waited trilogy fight between the two should be major for the promotion, particularly if Chandler can regain the Bellator lightweight title. But this isn’t the only big fight for Chandler, as names like Patricio Freire and Josh Thomson remain potential big-name opponents for him as well..

Michael Chandler should be considered one of the few home-grown talents to emerge from Bellator MMA as a hot free agent prospect for other organizations. However, in foregoing a full jump into the open market, Chandler made the decision to return to the company that helped build his brand, as he looks to continue to assert his dominance across the promotion.

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