Former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler plans on testing free agency this summer.
Chandler is expected to meet Benson Henderson in a rematch at Bellator 244 on June 6. That bout happens to be the last fight on Chandler’s contract and while an extension has been discussed with Bellator, both parties expect him to become a free agent first.
And the UFC and ONE Championship are certainly options that appeal to the 33-year-old should he depart the Santa Monica-based promotion.
“We have had some talks, but it looks like I’m going to be a free agent after this fight,” Chandler told ESPN. “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.
“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 has been with Bellator since 2010 and has become one of the faces of the promotion ever since. While he would love to stay on with them, he admits he is missing the motivation of truly facing the best lightweights in the world.
“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 said. “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.”
Chandler is a three-time Bellator lightweight champion. He won his first title following a submission victory over Alvarez back in November 2011.
Where would you like to see Chandler go next?