Michael Chandler is staying put, as Bellator MMA has re-signed the free agent lightweight, keeping him out of the UFC’s grasp.
Bellator MMA has managed to hold on to its biggest home grown star. First reported by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Chandler has re-signed with the Viacom-owned promotion where he originally rose to stardom. The multi-fight deal comes at a key time for both fighter and promotion: Chandler is in the midst of his prime, and this could represent his last big signing. It takes a huge free agent name off the market, and secures one of Bellator’s biggest stars as it embarks on a new streaming deal with online service DAZN.
Chandler (18-4) began his tenure with Bellator in 2010 at Bellator 31. Prior to that, he’d fought in just three bouts as a pro, two of which came under the Strikeforce banner. Upon joining Bellator, Chandler went on a nine-fight winning streak during which he won the Bellator lightweight tournament and captured the 155lb title. That title win was a classic against Eddie Alvarez, who he would rematch in 2013 after defending the belt twice. He’d lose the belt in a split decision, then lose twice to ‘Ill’ Will Brooks before winning the vacant title again in 2016 opposite Patricky Freire.
After successfully defending his title against Benson Henderson, Chandler lost the title to Brent Primus after a fluke injury at Bellator NYC. Primus has not competed since, while Chandler has won his last two bouts.
Chandler is generally considered the best lightweight not signed to the UFC. Interestingly, rival Eddie Alvarez, who has held gold in both the UFC and Bellator, is currently a free agent as well. With the two’s career series tied at one win apiece, should Bellator manage to sign Alvarez back to the promotion, it could make for an all-time classic trilogy bout.