In a major signing, Bellator adds former UFC Champion to its roster
Former UFC Lightweight champion Benson ‘Smooth’ Henderson has officially signed with MMA promotion Bellator. In doing so, he becomes possibly the biggest name from UFC to make the transition.
Henderson was a World Extreme Cagefighting Lightweight champion before the company merged with the UFC, resulting in a transfer of all the fighters. After making his UFC debut in 2011, Henderson won three straight fights to earn a shot at Frankie Edgar’s 155-pound belt.
He would go on to defeat Edgar via unanimous decision in that fight and earn a close split decision against him in the rematch. Henderson would be submitted by old nemesis Anthony Pettis and lose the title in August 2013.
After going 2-2 in four more fights at Lightweight, Henderson moved up to the Welterwight division, winning both his fights against Brandon Thatch and Jorge Masvidal.
In another black mark against UFC’s new fighter-sponsorship deal with Reebok, Henderson had this to say, according to BloodyElbow, “I won't lie, it was a very big deal. The ability to get sponsors on your own and not have to rely on the amount that Reebok dictates to you was a huge factor. I'd be straight up lying if I said it wasn't a very big part of my decision to go to Bellator.”
It remains to be seen which weight class Henderson will fight in, something toward which he himself didn’t offer anything conclusive:”Coming over from the UFC with what I've accomplished, yes, we knew we would have a title shot in whichever weight class we decided.We'll see which weight class it is. That part is still up for discussion, and I think it's being talked about right now between my guys and Bellator's. It's exciting for me. No more rematches, all new opponents to prove myself against.”
UFC President Dana White was respectful in his view of Henderson’s choice, saying, “ I’m honestly happy for Benson. I’m not angry. Who knows? This could be the last contract he ever signs. He got the right deal for him. He’s a great guy, and we wish him all the best.”