For the last nine years of his career, Michael Chandler was one of main staples of Bellator MMA. Along the way, he held the lightweight title three times and defended it thrice, overall.
And as he approaches the final fight on his contract, the 33-year-old Chandler will look to test free agency for the first time. Speaking to ESPN in a recent interview, he discussed a few options he is looking at, which still involves facing elite competition.
“I think I’m a guy who could go to [One Championship] and finish my trilogy with Eddie Alvarez,” Chandler said. “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 is nothing but thankful towards Scott Coker and Bellator and intended to retire with the company. But the need to provide for his family has urged him to look at other opportunities.
“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,” Chandler said. “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,” he added. “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.”
Chandler’s final Bellator fight will be against former UFC champion Benson Henderson. It is set to take place at Bellator 244 on June 6th in Chicago.