Image source: Michael Chandler Instagram (@mikechandlermma)
Three-time Bellator lightweight champion, Michael Chandler, is set to enter the free agency market for the second time in his career after confirming that Bellator are yet to make him an offer he has accepted.
Chandler spoke to MMA Fighting and said the COVID-19 pandemic definitely changes the nature of the offers he will be receiving during free agency but doesn’t yet know whether the offers will be better of worse.
“The whole MMA landscape is changing. The offers that would have been six weeks ago may be different now – either more money, or less money, or more favourable for me, or less favourable for me. We don’t know what this pandemic is doing to the books of these companies, to the futures of these companies, [to] the future of Bellator.”
Chandler admitted he has a very healthy relationship with Bellator and would be more than happy to stay with Bellator for the rest of his career and retire under the promotions banner. However, the decision to explore the free agency market is purely a business decision recognising his role as a prize fighter and wanting to provide the best for his family.
“I’ve been on record saying I’d be very happy if I’m a Bellator fighter for the rest of my career and I retire with Bellator and I continue to pour into the company that has poured into me. We’ve had a very good, symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship. But also, at the same token, I’m a prize fighter who fights for his family, his wife and his son, and our future and our platform and what we can do together. I’ve got to make the best decision for me and my family. As of right now, Bellator has not come with an offer we have accepted. We’re kind of in that limbo where I’m going to train and do my job just like any other athlete who is coming up to the end of their contract.”
Chandler also recognises that his fans want to see him compete under the UFC banner to test his skills against the best fighters in the world.
“For me obviously, I’ve enjoyed my time with Bellator and all the big fights that I’ve had, but of course, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t get compared to these other people or fans don’t reach out on social and say ‘I’d love to see you fight this guy or that guy’
Right now, Khabib [Nurmagomedov] is the No. 1 guy in the world, and rightly so – he’s undefeated. Then you’ve got Tony Ferguson right there nipping at his heels, and he’s on a 12-fight win streak, then you’ve got Justin Gaethje stepping in. The landscape of the entire world is a deep one at lightweight.”
However, Chandler said his decision will always be based purely on business and what makes the most sense for his career. The 34-year-old, three-time champion also said he is just coming into his prime in the sport and is looking to continue for another five or six years.
“I know my decision has always been based on business. What’s the best business decision? What’s the smartest business decision? I think I am still in the beginning of my prime as a mixed martial arts athlete, only 10 years into the sport. I take care of myself better than anyone else in this entire sport. I guarantee I’m top-five in this sport as far as guys who take care of themselves.
I’m going to be the Tom Brady of mixed martial arts. I’m going to be able to fight longer than most guys are able to. My body is going to last longer than most guys because of the way I live my life, the decisions that I make and how I treat myself. I know I still have another five or six years left in me, so I still have one more, two more, three more contracts left to sign in this career of mine. My best days are still out ahead of me. My best fights are still out ahead of me.”
Chandler ended by reiterating his passion for the Bellator promotion but, again, said the decision is a business decision and there’s no place for emotion in his decision-making process.
“You’re not allowed to let emotion come into it. Yes, Bellator has a place in my heart. A very big place in my heart. And yes, Bellator is who they are because of the fights I’ve given them, and Michael Chandler is the household name because of the fights Bellator has given me and the promotion that Bellator has given me.
So, there’s a large place in my heart for Scott Coker and Rich Chou and Mike Kogan and Bellator. But we’re also not going to let the emotions of things interfere with business. I have to make a business decision.”