After knocking out Benson Henderson at Bellator 243 earlier this month, Michael Chandler, the promotion’s former lightweight champ, is now a free agent.
As one of the biggest stars Bellator has produced to date, Chandler can almost certainly expect lucrative offers from some of the sport’s biggest organizations. He’s already expressed interest in a potential move to the UFC, and UFC President Dana White has reciprocated that interest. Chandler has also discussed a potential move to ONE Championship, where a compelling trilogy fight with his chief rival Eddie Alvarez could await.
The former Bellator champ would certainly make some waves in either of those promotions, but it’s possible that the best option available to him is a move to the Professional Fighters League (PFL), a promotion that presents MMA in a sport-season format wherein fighters compete in a regular season, post-season, and championship.
Here’s why the PFL is a choice Chandler should seriously consider as he searches for his new home.
The Fastest Track to Big Money:
At the conclusion of each PFL season, the champion of each division receives a $1M check. While Chandler is a talented enough fighter to collect big purses in any promotion he chooses, no promotion offers a faster track to millionaire-status than the PFL. There’s also no reason he couldn’t collect multiple million-dollar prizes, year after year. Other PFL fighters such as Lance Palmer and Natan Schulte have already pulled off this lucrative feat, and Chandler undoubtedly has the skill required to follow in their footsteps.
A Stacked Lightweight Division:
Should Chandler sign with the PFL, he’d almost certainly debut in the lightweight division. In that event, he could look forward to some seriously compelling matchups with the likes of two-time PFL lightweight champion Natan Schulte, and other notables such as Clay Collard, Johnny Case, Marcin Held, and Olivier Aubin-Mercier.
A Stacked Welterweight Division:
While Michael Chandler has asserted himself as one of the best lightweights of an era, he’s previously teased the idea of a move up to the welterweight division. He first discussed the possibility in 2016, not long after former UFC welterweight title challenger Rory MacDonald signed with Bellator.
“I would definitely step up to 170 and make that fight [with MacDonald] happen,” he said on The MMA Hour.
If Chandler signed with the PFL, he could conceivably move up to the welterweight division in the future, not only opening up a second path to a million-dollar payday, but matchups with stars like 2019 PFL welterweight champ Ray Cooper III, and MacDonald, who recently migrated to the PFL roster himself.
A Huge Platform:
In 2019, the PFL moved to ESPN. The significance of this broadcast deal cannot be understated.
ESPN is often referred to as “The World Wide Leader in Sports,” and there’s a lot of truth to that moniker. The network has massive, international reach. Chandler could us that reach to increase his already formidable sponsorship base—something he will not get from the UFC— and take his stardom to new heights.
The PFL has also shown that it’s more than willing to put the full force of its marketing machine behind its stars. Look at the way the promotion has turned its women’s lightweight champion Kayla Harrison into a legitimate mainstream attraction. The PFL has also given a big push to Rory MacDonald, having handed the former Bellator champion his very own digital documentary series.
With ESPN behind it, and a newly-launched OTT platform to boot, the PFL is well-positioned to help amplify Michael Chandler and his brand in a big way should he sign on the dotted line.