Benson Henderson is headed to Bellator MMA.
The former UFC Lightweight Champion announced on Monday that he’s signed with the rival organization, releasing the following statement on his official site:
I’d like to officially announce my move over to Bellator MMA.
I’m beyond excited for this next phase of my career, it’s a big move, like any move when switching employers or jobs after having worked somewhere for such a long time.
I have to thank the BigMan upstairs for putting some amazing people in my life, my wife (first and foremost) and a lot of truly smart and insightful people behind the scenes who helped make the connections and negotiated this deal to bring it to fruition.
I’d be remiss to not thank Dana White and Lorenzo Fertita for the opportunities they presented me, you guys have helped me change my life for the better and to be able to provide my family with the things I didn’t have while growing up. For that I’ll always have the utmost appreciation. Thanks for all the advise you guys gave too, both business wise and personal.
And last but not least, to who it is I think of when I think of the UFC! Everybody behind the scenes who I personally dealt with every time I reported in or had to do something. Mayra, Melissa, Dave, Chris, Nick, Tracy, Joanie, Maura, Tony, Heidi, Ryan, James, Dave, Kaia (sp.???), Burt, Rob, Rudy, Stitch, House, Mike, Susie, Dean, Donna, Feryal, Sean, Joe, Brad, Jazzmine, Candice, Michelle, Reed, sorry I can’t name everyone or this list would go on for forever. There’s a whole ton of people behind the scenes who make that show what it is. You guys and girls are the ones who make that show great and allow us fighters to do what it is we love!!! Much love to you all and thanks for putting up with me for so long.
To my fans, thanks for all the love and support, I’ll keep giving you my all, opening up my heart and soul inside that cage. I’m excited for this next chapter and building new relationships with guys I’ve heard nothing but great things about like Scott Coker, Rich Chou and Mike Kogan.
Henderson held the UFC Lightweight Title from February 2012 through August of 2013, defending it three times in the process. Since losing the title to Anthony Pettis, Henderson has gone 4-2, with his last two wins in a row coming in the welterweight division. His win over Jorge Masvidal in November was the final fight on his contract with the organization, and though he said he wanted to end his career in the UFC, he said he was going to sign with whomever offered him the best deal. Bellator MMA seems to have won out.
Penick’s Analysis: It’s not clear if the UFC still has matching rights here, because if that’s the case they may still excercise those rights. That’s what happened with Gilbert Melendez, as his deal with Bellator was announced before the UFC matched the terms. Regardless, it’s slightly surprising the UFC has let him go, but at the same time if they weren’t going to move him toward a title fight, it might be best for him elsewhere. He’s a big enough name that being expendable could potentially help their case with the on-going anti-trust lawsuits against them, as it’s a sign there is other competition willing to pay that kind of money for competitors. Regardless, if it means he’s getting paid what he feels he’s worth, he’s made the right move for himself at this point. Besides, if he’s heading back to lightweight, there are a lot of interesting fights for him in Bellator, fights that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
[Ben Henderson art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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