Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler is currently preparing to defend his belt at next week’s Bellator 97 in Albuquerque, but he didn’t have to wait until after the fight to get a new deal done with the promotion.
Bellator MMA on Thursday revealed that it signed Chandler to an eight-fight extension to his current contract.
“In all my years in combat sports, I’ve never seen the growth and development in a fighter like we’ve all witnessed with Michael Chandler,” Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “I believe Michael is the best lightweight in MMA. And, given that, I felt it was paramount to keep Michael at Bellator for the long term. Both inside and outside the cage, Michael is a tremendous representative for our Bellator. And, now as one of the highest paid lightweights in MMA, he’s without question earned that distinction.”
Chandler (11-0) was a relative unknown until he upset then-champion Eddie Alvarez for the Bellator lightweight title late in 2011 in what many considered the Fight of the Year.
He has since fought just twice. Chandler’s first bout after winning the belt was a non-title victory over Akihiro Gono in May 2012. He then made his first title defense with a second-round submission of Rick Hawn in January of this year.
Chandler was expected to make his second defense last month at Bellator 96 against Dave Jansen, but Jansen fell out due to injury. He will now defend the belt against David Rickels on Wednesday at Bellator 97 instead.
“Since I signed with Bellator back in 2010, Bjorn laid out a plan for me of how he saw my career progressing and what type of levels we could reach together, and everything has come true,” Chandler said.
“I couldn’t be happier with the situation I’m in right now. Bellator is my home, it’s where I want to be, and it’s where I’m going to continue to defend my belt,” he continued.
“Over the last few months, you’ve continued to see Bellator go out and sign some of the best talent in the world, and the tournaments continue to be loaded with talent that I’m ready to take on. I believe in this format and what Bellator is doing, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. My focus right now is solely on David Rickels, and making sure we put on a show July 31.”
(Photo courtesy of Bellator MMA)