After his victory over Benson Henderson at Bellator 243, MMA veteran Michael Chandler is at a turning point in his career.
Currently a free agent, Chandler has had all but three of his 26 professional fights under the Bellator banner. But with increased interest from the largest entity in Mixed Martial Arts, the UFC, and rapidly growing companies like ONE Championship, there are plenty of options for Chandler.
Let’s take a look at what the future may hold for one of the greatest Lightweight fighters in MMA.
The three main options for Chandler seem to be, signing a new contract with Bellator to remain in the organization where he made his name, taking a highly lucrative contract with ONE Championship based in Singapore, or heading to the UFC, the biggest MMA promotion in the world to see how he stacks up with the best of the best. There are certainly some advantages and drawbacks of all three companies. What really matters is what is important to Chandler. At 34 years old, Chandler is beginning to exit his prime, but could still showcase some incredible skills inside whatever cage he chooses to fight.
The first option is the most familiar. Bellator has been Chandler’s home since Strikeforce, Chandler’s home for his second and third pro fights was bought and merged with the UFC. Aside from the aforementioned two Strikeforce fights and a regional fight to kick off his MMA career, Chandler has fought exclusively for Bellator. This seems to be such a rarity in MMA today. Most fighters bounce around in multiple promotions seeking either pay upgrades, more exposure, or better opportunities. While Bellator may not offer Chandler all of these things, there is something to be said about any person, in any line of work, remaining loyal to the company that got them started.
While loyalty is something that is to be applauded, Chandler is not stupid. Bellator is not on the same level in terms of fandom as the UFC. Globally, it’s not on the same level as many MMA promotions. What Bellator offers is the freedom to garner outside sponsorship as well as competing against a crop of talent either rejected by entities like the UFC, or talent that refuses to enter the UFC “machine.” Chandler will have to take an extreme look in the mirror to evaluate how he stacks up to the competition in other promotions and also weigh mainstream exposure, with loyalty and pay.
To the casual fan of MMA who may never have heard of ONE Championship, ONE is a relatively new promotion based out of Singapore. While they are still gaining traction, they have taken the steps and laid the foundation for success in the MMA market. The first step would be that they are a foreign market. While the UFC is expanding to become a global entity, having an Asian-based promotion really garners the attention of the more local fans. They have also brought in the right people. Victor Cui is the CEO and Owner of ONE and has had over 15 years of experience in the MMA industry. They have also appointed former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Miesha Tate as the match-maker. The promotion has also acquired key talent such as widely-regarded greatest Flyweight on the planet Demetrious Johnson via the first-ever MMA promotional trade, established veteran Vitor Belfort, and Michael Chandler’s greatest adversary: Eddie Alvarez.
If ONE Championship were able to acquire Chandler, a trilogy fight with Alvarez would, no doubt, be the first fight to be booked for him. Also, ONE has been able to hand out incredibly lucrative contracts to their fighters. Eddie Alvarez has himself stated that his contract with ONE is worth over eight-figures. If Chandler were interested in the financial side of fighting first, look no further than ONE Championship.
What is there to say about the UFC? It is the largest entity in MMA going today. It grants even mid-card fighters mainstream notoriety. The UFC is home to the greatest crop of MMA talent on the planet. There are tons of potential dream matches for Chandler should he sign with the UFC. While he would not achieve the lucrative status he would if he signed with ONE Championship, he would come in as an established name in MMA and be compensated as such. The only downside to joining the UFC is that there are no warm-up fights. There are no easy matchups, and Chandler would most certainly be thrown into the deep end. This would not be the first time a fighter who made their name in Bellator went to the UFC and things did not work out.
A perfect example would be a fighter like Ben Askren. Askren was an undefeated Mixed Martial Artist who made his name in Bellator, was initially rejected by the UFC, ended up in ONE Championship due to contract issues, and retired as one of the greatest fighters to never compete in the UFC. However, the tale of Ben Askren should be a cautionary one for Chandler. Askren was then traded to the UFC, as mentioned above, won his first fight controversially, lost his second in dramatic fashion, was exposed in his third fight while eating another loss, and retired with his legacy tarnished.
Chandler will have to weigh these options and determine what is best for him. He certainly still has tread on his tires and could compete for a championship in any promotion he chooses. Time will tell what Chandler decides to do.
Where do you think Michael Chandler will end up?
Featured Image: MMA Junkie