MMA Ratings Podcast

August 10, 2020

Bellator 243: Michael Chandler Successfully Fights For His Worth With Win Over Henderson

By Raphael Garcia

Free agency is still a relatively new phenomenon in mixed martial arts, but the idea of fighters “betting on themselves” by fighting out their contracts has already proven to have massive implications for those fighters' future opportunities and paydays. Former Bellator MMA lightweight champion Michael Chandler was the latest fighter to bet on himself in the Bellator 243 main event, when he faced Benson Henderson in a rematch of their 2016 bout at Bellator 165. That bet proved to be a successful one, as Chandler is now in a solid position to determine what is next for his professional fighting career.

Chandler needed just over two minutes to put Henderson away, as a thudding left hand sent the former UFC Lightweight Champion crumpling to the mat, where follow up shots finished his night. Chandler stood victorious in his last contracted Bellator fight, calling on Bellator President Scott Coker to “hurry up and get a deal done.” But Chandler understands the power he now holds to determine his future, be it in Bellator or another promotion.
Chandler is perhaps the promotion’s biggest “homegrown” competitor. He has been with the company for more than a decade, during which he has fought nearly everyone the promotion had to offer. While he was not always successful in these bouts, what made Chandler such an interesting fighter was his ability to bounce back from adversity. And now, at 34 years of age and with 11 years of fighting under his belt, the question shifts to what comes next.

Should there be interest from the UFC? Of course. Chandler was once considered one of the best non-UFC-contracted athletes in the sport. And although that has changed in recent years, he is still one of the sport’s most recognizable names outside of the UFC. Yet the question for Chandler is whether he would be as valuable to that company as he would for other promotions. The UFC already has the top lightweight division in the sport. Adding Chandler would strengthen that depth, but there’s no immediate answer as to whether or not he’d crack the company’s lightweight top 10, especially when you look at the murderer’s row that is the 155-pound division.
What about ONE Championship? The Singapore-based promotion continues to find a way to lure names away from the States with promises of big deals -- surely Chandler is on their radar, especially since Eddie Alvarez now calls that promotion home. Both he and Chandler have openly talked about wanting to run back the trilogy bout after two acclaimed face-offs in Bellator back in 2011 and 2013. Mixed martial arts fans would be down for it, and both men would surely earn strong paychecks for their time.

Yet the answers to all these questions lie in Michael Chandler’s head and heart. He has found a way to build a strong partnership with Bellator MMA thus far, and it is hard to see that relationship suddenly changing. However, money does frequently change circumstances, and even though Chandler continues to be worth a lot of money to Bellator, he may be worth even more money to another promotion, be it ONE Championship (more likely) or the UFC (less likely). In this bustling industry, as with free agency in general, time will tell.

Bellator 243
Michael Chandler vs. Benson Henderson: Michael Chandler def. Benson Henderson via KO (strikes) at 2:09 of Round 1.


Bellator 243: Chandler vs. Henderson 2 (formerly Bellator 243: Carmouche vs. Böhm) was due to take place May 29, 2020 at Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California. Due to growing concerns around the coronavirus, it was rescheduled/relocated to August 7, 2020 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Click HERE for more Bellator 243 Post-Fight Analysis


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