Three-time Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler has signed with the UFC and been installed as the backup fighter ahead of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s title fight with Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.
Chandler, who is one of the most decorated fighters in Bellator history, entered free-agency after his knockout win over former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson at Bellator 243 on August 7.
His emergence as a free-agent sparked mass speculation over a possible move to the UFC, with the fighter expressing an interest in testing himself, and UFC president Dana White admitting he liked the American powerhouse.
Now the deal has been done to make Chandler a UFC fighter, and his first assignment could come as early as UFC 254, with the newcomer set to feature as a backup fighter for the lightweight title main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje.
Dana White announces Michael Chandler has joined the UFC. pic.twitter.com/tqKYfsgNZM
UFC president Dana White confirmed the news to ESPN’s Sportscenter in the United States, as Chandler arrives in the UFC lightweight division as an instant contender at 155 pounds.
Chandler’s record reads 21 wins, 5 losses. He captured Bellator’s lightweight title three times during his career with the promotion, and holds wins over the likes of former UFC champion Henderson and Eddie Alvarez, plus Brent Primus and Patricky “Pitbull” Freire. He lost his lightweight title to Patricky’s brother Patricio, who knocked him out to become a two-division champion.
It looked like Chandler had positioned himself perfectly for a championship rematch with Patricio, but instead opted to sign with the UFC, where a host of huge potential matchups await.
Speaking to ESPN, Chandler reacted to his signing by saying, “Eventually hard work pays off, you just have to still be standing there when it does. I’m humbled by the opportunity and can’t wait to go prove what I have been saying for the past year; that I’m the best lightweight in the world. See you at the top!”
As well as Khabib and Gaethje, the UFC lightweight division boasts the likes of Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson, Dan Hooker and, of course, Conor McGregor.