Henderson trades UFC for Bellator

Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson has signed a contract with rival promotion Bellator MMA.

Henderson, who defended the belt he won in 2012 three times before losing to Anthony Pettis, was out of contract with the UFC after his victory over Jorge Masvidal last November, and after brief negotiations with the UFC has decided to join Bellator.

“I’m beyond excited for this next phase of my career,” Henderson wrote on his official website. “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 Big Man 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.”

UFC chairman Dana White wished the 32-year-old the best and insisted that there are no ill feelings regarding the matter.

“I’m honestly happy for Benson. I’m not angry,” White told MMAJunkie. “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.”

Henderson had an 11-3 UFC record and fought in both the lightweight and welterweight divisions.