Best male Bellator fighter: Michael Chandler
So few can say they’ve been with Bellator MMA for nearly a decade. So few can say they’ve spent nearly their entire MMA career with Bellator. So few can say in that timespan, they’ve been one of the greatest MMA fighters outside of the UFC. Michael Chandler can say all that.
Chandler made his professional MMA debut in August 2009 and had two bouts in Strikeforce before making his Bellator debut at Bellator 31, defeating Scott Stapp in just under two minutes. In 2011, Chandler bested Marcin Held, Lloyd Woodard and Patricky “Pitbull” Freire to claim the season four lightweight tournament title. He then defeated Eddie Alvarez for the Bellator lightweight title at Bellator 58.
Chandler defended the belt twice before his first professional loss, dropping the belt to Alvarez in a controversial split decision. A trilogy bout was set for Bellator 120 but never took place as Alvarez was concussed and eventually left for the UFC. Chandler fought Will Brooks for the interim title at Bellator 120 and the vacant world title at Bellator 131, losing both times.
When Brooks left for his own UFC venture, however, Chandler reclaimed his spot at 155 with a vicious first-round knockout of Patricky Pitbull at Bellator 157: Dynamite 2. He would successfully defend the belt against Benson Henderson but lost the belt to Brent Primus thanks to a leg injury at Bellator NYC. Chandler finally regained the belt and started a third reign as champ at Bellator 212 but dropped the belt to Patricio “Pitbull” at Bellator 221.
As of August 2019, Chandler holds the records for most finishes and title bouts in Bellator history, and he is tied for most wins and most submission victories. By being one of Bellator’s top stars throughout its rise and nearly all of his career, his claim of gold three times and the records he holds, Chandler is the pick for the greatest male Bellator fighter of all-time.
- Thomas Albano