Michael Chandler, who has been one of the primary faces of Bellator MMA during his promotional tenure, will test the free-agent market after his next fight.
The former lightweight champion told ESPN that his scheduled bout with Benson Henderson at Bellator 244 on June 6 is the final fight on his current contract with the California-based promotion.
"We have had some talks, but it looks like I'm going to be a free agent after this fight," Chandler said. "I would love nothing more than to finish my career and retire as a Bellator fighter, and I've told that to [Bellator president] Scott Coker, but the simple fact is they have a business to run with checks and balances, and I know my wife and son deserve to be taken care of, and I have a calling in life that might require me to go elsewhere.
"I think I'm a guy who could go to [One Championship] and finish my trilogy with Eddie Alvarez, or imagine me fighting guys like [UFC lightweights] Justin Gaethje or Dustin Poirier, and putting on ‘Fights of the Year.’ And I do think I'm the best guy to solve the puzzle of [UFC lightweight champion] Khabib Nurmagomedov.”
Chandler has been with Bellator since 2010. The former University of Missouri wrestler has compiled a 17-5 mark with the promotion and owns notable wins over the likes of Alvarez, Patricky Freire, Marcin Held, Henderson and Goiti Yamauchi during his tenure.
He said he isn’t planning to focus on contract negotiations as he heads into his camp to prepare for a rematch with Henderson.
"I'm going into training camp soon, and I'm not going to be focused on negotiating a contract," Chandler said. "At this point, all the ducks are lined up for me to put an exclamation point on the last fight of my contract, and go out and perk the ears of other organizations, who I think will want me. It's never been a matter of these organizations wanting me or not, it's always been a scenario I just haven't tested.
"Bellator has taken care of me, and I've taken care of them. It's been the perfect storm of a symbiotic relationship -- them having an asset they were not willing to lose, and me being in a situation where the grass isn't always greener on the other side.”