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Ex-UFC champion Ben Henderson signs with Bellator

Ben Henderson celebrates after the end of the

Ben Henderson celebrates after the end of the fifth round of a lightweight championship mixed martial arts bout against Nate Diaz at a UFC on Fox event in Seattle. (Dec. 8, 2012) Credit: AP

Benson Henderson beat Jorge Masvidal by split decision last November. It was the last fight on his UFC contract, and the former lightweight champion created some buzz about fighting out his contract before renegotiating.

And that win also now stands as his last fight in the UFC.

Henderson announced Monday that he signed with Bellator MMA, the closest competitor to UFC.

“Benson is a tremendous athlete who puts forth an exciting effort each and every time he steps into the cage,” Bellator president Scott Coker said. “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.”

Henderson (23-5) is the highest-profile fighter to leave the UFC for Bellator. His last 13 fights were under the UFC banner, including three successful defenses of the lightweight title after taking it from Frankie Edgar. Of Henderson’s 28 pro fights, 19 took place in the Zuffa-owned UFC and WEC.

He recently moved from lightweight up to welterweight and could compete in either division in Bellator.

“I’d be remiss to not thank Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta for the opportunities they presented me,” Henderson wrote on his website Monday morning. “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 advice you guys gave too, both business wise and personal.”

New York Sports