Michael Chandler became the hottest free agency in the MMA world after knocking out Benson Henderson in the first round of the Bellator 243 main event on Aug. 7, completing his deal with the promotion and preparing to test the market.
While some fans hope for “Iron” to ink a deal with UFC and enter one of the most stacked divisions in the company—especially after UFC president Dana White said he would “love to meet” with the former Bellator lightweight king—Chandler’s longtime rival Patricio "Pitbull" Freire expects him to go a different route.
“His future is uncertain, it looks like he will talk to Dana White and Bellator still has the right to match the offer,” Freire said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “He has already shown interest in fighting for ONE, and I think he will go there. He has been teasing a trilogy with Eddie Alvarez for a while and we know that the Asian company is paying these big name guys really well.”
Chandler became one of the biggest stars for Bellator over the past decade, joining the promotion after a pair of wins under the Strikeforce banner and going 6-0 in just 14 months, capturing the lightweight title from Alvarez in the process. Chandler lost the belt in an all-time classic in the rematch two years later, but eventually re-claimed the gold a couple of times.
Pitbull took the title away from him in May 2019, becoming a two-division champion with the featherweight and lightweight crowns. Chandler completed his contract with Bellator with first-round finishes over Sidney Outlaw and Henderson, and is now set to test his value.
Chandler holds a stellar 21-5 record that also includes two wins over Pitbull’s brother Patricky Freire, plus victories over Marcin Held, Goiti Yamauchi, Brent Primus and David Rickels. In fact, Pitbull believes he would do well inside the octagon.
“Chandler, the way he is now in Bellator, he can get in the UFC and do some damage,” Freire said. “(ONE has) money, the trilogy he wants to do with Eddie Alvarez, which we know would get him good money that the UFC might not pay him, but he will also be able to dope.”
The 34-year-old has never failed a drug test in his MMA career, but Pitbull thinks he would change as a fighter when subject to random drug testing under the United States Anti-Doping Agency program.
“His eyes might sparkle for the UFC,” Freire said, “but if he goes to the UFC and USADA stays on him, he can’t have the same performance and will lose easily.”