Michael Chandler is the latest former Bellator MMA lightweight champion to join the UFC.
Dana White announced on ESPN’s SportsCenter that Chandler has officially signed with the promotion, ending a run of ten years with Bellator. He also added that Chandler, who doesn’t have a fight booked yet, will serve as the backup should something happen to either Khabib Nurmagomedov or Justin Gaethje prior to the UFC 254 main event. That means that if one of those two men has to withdraw, then Chandler gets either an immediate undisputed title shot vs. Khabib or an interim title bout vs. Gaethje.
Chandler (21-5) has long been held in high regard as one of the best lightweights in the world regardless of promotion. He rose to prominence after his epic fourth-round submission win over Eddie Alvarez in 2011, ending Alvarez’s reign as champ.
Chandler would eventually lose the belt in a rematch and twice fall to Will Brooks to turn an undefeated record into a three-fight losing streak, but he would become champion again after knocking out Patricky Freire. The 34-year-old suffered a freak leg injury that saw him again lose the title, this time to Brent Primus. Chandler won the rematch over Primus before suffering a KO loss against rival and now two-division champ Patricio Freire. He rounded out his Bellator career with consecutive KO wins over Sidney Outlaw and Benson Henderson, paving the way for him to explore free agency and land with MMA’s premier promotion.
There will surely be a lot of anticipation for Chandler’s first UFC outing, whether it’s a short notice title fight or against one of the top contenders at lightweight down the line.