Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson (pictured) was inside the octagon this past Saturday as he celebrated teammate Bryan Barberena derailing Sage Northcutt’s hype train at UFC on FOX 18.
Bellator president Scott Coker must have watched with a smile on his face knowing that was likely the last time Henderson would set foot inside the UFC’s cage as a non-Bellator fighter.
On Monday, Coker announced he had signed the 32-year-old free agent to a contract.
“Benson is a tremendous athlete who puts forth an exciting effort each and every time he steps into the cage,” said Coker. “Whether he chooses to fight at lightweight or welterweight, he’s without question a great addition to this promotion, and brings countless amazing matchups to the table. We’re looking forward to having him put on a show for the great Bellator MMA fans that tune into Spike. We plan on announcing his Bellator debut in the very near future.”
Terms of Henderson’s deal were not disclosed.
Henderson became a free agent after beating Jorge Masvidal in November. Despite “Smooth’s” impressive 23-5 professional record and championship pedigree, UFC brass weren’t aggressive in trying to retain his services. Henderson’s aesthetically unappealing grind-it-out style and advanced age were likely the primary reasons.
It is unknown if the UFC even offered Henderson a contract extension, but whatever Bellator offered is likely less than what Henderson was previously making in the big leagues. However, Bellator does possess a crucial bargaining chip of allowing its fighters to acquire sponsorships inside the cage.
As we all know by now, the UFC and Reebok are locked in a restrictive endorsement agreement for the next six years. Given his tenure in the WEC prior to transitioning to the UFC, Henderson would have pocketed $20,000 in his next UFC outing from Reebok.
Henderson’s last disclosed UFC salary was three fights ago when he was paid $48,000 in a loss to Donald Cerrone. He likely would have doubled that paycheck with a win.
No word when Henderson will make his Bellator debut.