Michael Chandler leaving Bellator to sign with the UFC wins the FanSided MMA Awards the biggest signing in 2020.
The year 2020 saw a significant number of high profile fighters test free agency. Former UFC champions Fabricio Werdum and Anthony Pettis left for the PFL. Light heavyweights Corey Anderson, Yoel Romero, and Anthony Johnson all jumped to Bellator. But the biggest signing of all was former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler signing with the UFC.
On Aug. 7, Chandler entered his last fight against Benson Henderson, publically stating he would test free agency after his contract expired. Chandler bet on himself and the gamble paid off. With a vicious first-round knockout of Henderson, Chandler entered free agency as the hottest property in MMA and making himself a lot more money.
Six weeks after his knockout of Henderson, the UFC announced that they had signed Chandler. The former Bellator lightweight champion joined one of the richest weight classes in all of MMA. Immediately, Chandler was put into a high profile position, serving as the backup fighter for the UFC 254 main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje. Despite not fighting a single round in the UFC, the promotion showed how highly they regarded Chandler.
Despite not making his Octagon debut at UFC 254, Chandler was interviewed during the broadcast in a move that is rarely done by the UFC when a new signing makes their arrival. Chandler is still waiting to make his UFC debut and should fight during the first quarter of 2021. In his first fight, Chandler will likely face one of the UFC’s top-ranked lightweights and will either main event a Fight Night card or be a major feature on a pay-per-view.
The signing was not only a win for Chandler but a major coup for the UFC. The UFC stole one of the top fighters from a rival promotion and got a new title contender. Since Chandler has spent the majority of his career in Bellator, he will be a fresh matchup for every ranked fighter in the UFC’s lightweight division. That allows the UFC to create some very interesting fights that should lead to many great moments and fights for fans to enjoy.