Bellator President Scott Coker has shared his first reaction to Michael Chandler, the promotion’s former lightweight champion, signing with the UFC.
Chandler is arguably the biggest star in Bellator history. Last month, however, the former champ parted ways with the promotion, and signed on the dotted line with the UFC.
Speaking with MMAJunkie recently, Coker discussed Chandler’s migration to the UFC. The Bellator boss claims that he likely could have matched the UFC’s offer, but allowed Chandler to move on and embark on a new chapter.
“I personally really think he’s an amazing human being and a great family man,” Coker said. “He’s got great values and is a real martial artist. He exemplifies everything I love seeing in an athlete and saw when he represented our brand. … It was, ‘OK, we’re going to rebuild this 155-pound division. He has some great opportunities. Let’s let him go.’ At the end of the day, we could have matched it, to be honest. But I just felt like his destiny lies elsewhere.”
Interestingly, Coker actually believes Chandler will end up back with Bellator before all is said and done. He’s also open to putting the former lightweight champion in the Bellator Hall of Fame—though it doesn’t yet exist.
“Michael has been the face of Bellator for the past 10 years, or his whole career, pretty much,” Coker said. “He’s had some of the most amazing battles in the history of Bellator.
“Michael and I talked about this. We said one day he’ll come back, and we’ll hang your poster up on the rafters, and maybe you’ll be the first person inducted into the Bellator Hall of Fame.”
While Chandler now calls a Bellator competitor home, Coker says he’ll continue to support the fighter in the next phase of his career.
“He’s a guy I’m always going to support,” Coker said. “I’m going to watch all of his fights. And what does it say about the quality of fighters in Bellator when a guy like Michael Chandler leaves and gets put right into the immediate title shot conversation? Right? It shows you how great these fighters are over here.”