If things go according to current plans, Bellator Fighting Championships lightweight title holder Michael Chandler (10-0 MMA, 7-0 BFC) will defend his belt for the first time in early 2013.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney recently said the promotion is currently targeting an event early next year for Chandler to take on season 6 tournament winner Rick Hawn (14-1 MMA, 6-1 BFC).
"At this point, it's looking like very early in the Spike TV launch â€“ I mean super early in the Spike TV launch," Rebney told MMAjunkie.com.
Bellator, which currently airs its events on fellow Viacom-owned channel MTV2, will make the switch to Spike TV next year. The former cable partner of the UFC will air live events, as well as specialty programming such historic fights, event previews and a reality show.
Spike TV aired the first 14 seasons of the long-running and ground-breaking UFC reality series, "The Ultimate Fighter." However, due to the UFC's 2011 deal with the FOX family of channels, the series moved to FX.
Due to an existing UFC-Spike TV contract, Bellator can't move its live shows to Spike TV until 2013. However, Spike TV will be the primary home for all Bellator content in 2013.
While Hawn claimed his title shot with a tournament final win at May's Bellator 70 event, Rebney said the magnitude of the bout makes a delay in booking the contest a smart move.
"We look at it from the perspective of big fights, and you've got Chandler, who had the fight of the year last year," Rebney said. "You've got Rick Hawn, who's a U.S. Olympian and who has just looked monster-great since he moved down to 155 pounds. â€¦ I think you've got two guys in their prime, and they're both hugley marketable â€“ an NCAA champion and an Olympian. You'll probably see that right off the bat on Spike TV."
Chandler, a former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, made his MMA debut in August 2009. He's remained undefeated through his first 10 fights â€“ a run that includes a win in Bellator's season 4 lightweight tournament and a "Fight of the Year" candidate win over former champ Eddie Alvarez to claim the title.
Chandler has since earned a non-title victory over Akihiro Gono but has yet to defend his belt.