Ben Henderson rode out his contract with the UFC so he could test the open waters of free agency. Having surfed the wave of … whatever, you get the analogy. Ben Henderson has signed with Bellator.
The UFC had the right to match the offer but chose not to do so. Whatever Henderson got, that’s what his value is. I’m sure it was more than what he was making – or could realistically expect to make with the UFC going forward – and so good for him.
Henderson himself made the announcement on his website, writing:
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.
That’s a very classy letter.
Bellator gets a quality fighter, with a name, but obviously not a game changer or anything. Henderson has had success at lightweight and welterweight and will become one of the flag ship fighters of Bellator. But, again, we’re not talking a major draw like Honda Housey or Conor McGregor. Henderson is a quality fighter that makes Bellator better.
Long run, who knows. It’s still the UFC’s ballgame, as they’ve got the money to outbid anyone and the right to match anyone, so in one sense this is basically the UFC drawing a line and refusing to upset the pay structure they have in place. That’s business.
Henderson was realistically not likely to play a major role for the UFC going forward, as his losses at lightweight to dos Anjos, Pettis, and Cerrone more or less kept him out of that picture and he probably wasn’t going to make a true run at the welterweight title.
It does hurt the UFC in that they lose depth, particularly for TV main-events, where Henderson was a big enough name to headline in a pinch. Still, the future is always in new blood and it’s not like lightweight and welterweight are divisions lacking talent.
For Bellator, it only helps. Even if there isn’t an immediate financial gain, it at least sends a message to other fighters that there’s money to be made outside of the UFC. It may only make Bellator the home to mid-tier draws but that’s how things start. Start accumulating enough quality talent just below the elite and then you get one big star and suddenly you’re a player. Mind you, I don’t expect that to happen but it’s either this or find Marco Ruas and have him fight Steve Jennum.