Michael Chandler re-ups with Bellator

When Bellator MMA lightweight champion Michael Chandler steps into the cage Wednesday in the second defense of the belt, he'll do so under the terms of a new multiyear, eight-fight contract.

Chandler, 27, is unbeaten in 11 contests and has reigned as Bellator champion since November 2011, when he stopped Eddie Alvarez.

ESPN.com ranks the former University of Missouri wrestler as the No. 5 155-pound fighter in mixed martial arts.

"It makes sense for a lot of reasons," Chandler said Wednesday. "I'm happy with it. I felt in my heart it was the right move to make. Bellator put their faith in me since day one, so signing a new deal was just another way to show our relationship."

Though Bellator MMA CEO Bjorn Rebney declined to discuss terms of the arrangement, he claimed the deal makes Chandler "one of the highest-paid lightweights in MMA."

"I don't in any way, shape or form say that begrudgingly," Rebney said. "Michael has shown where his value is in this space. And if you line up every lightweight in the world, I put my mortgage and my house on Michael. So I was comfortable making that kind of commitment to him.

"You're paying a great, great deal more, but when you're signing those checks you have a smile on your face because you recognize you made a great business decision."

On Wednesday, Chandler meets David Rickels (14-1), who is 4-0 since moving to 155 last year, in the main event of Bellator 97 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, N.M.

"The greatest thing about fighting a guy like Dave Rickels: He always comes to fight," Chandler said. "He always moves forward. And whenever you've got two guys coming forward who are really tough, good chins, both hard to finish, there's bound to be fireworks and a lot of excitement."

Chandler said he and his management team negotiated with Bellator MMA for a couple of months before agreeing to terms. Unlike the recently announced contract between Quinton Jackson and Bellator MMA, Chandler's deal does not carve out arrangements for professional wrestling opportunities. Rather, the frequency of Chandler's appearances in the cage was the conversation that brought both sides together.

The Bellator champion has fought once in 2013, a dominating effort over Rick Hawn in the main event of the promotion's debut on Spike TV in January.

Rebney said he expects Chandler to fight a few more times this year.

"Michael has shown us what he can do inside the cage, and he's only getting better," Rebney said. "But Michael's also got a wicked skill set outside the cage that makes him an incredible representative for Bellator, an incredible emissary for Spike TV and for everything we're doing in a combat sports arena."

Chandler, who trains out of Alliance MMA in San Diego, has appeared in several marketing campaigns for the promotion and should receive several out-of-competition opportunities through Viacom, which owns a majority stake in Bellator MMA.

The deal is expected to be officially announced Thursday.