Former UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson has announced that he’s leaving the UFC to sign for the Bellator promotion.

“I’d like to officially announce my move over to Bellator MMA,” Henderson wrote on his own website. “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.”

Henderson had indicated recently that he was going to test his worth on the open market after completing the final fight of his deal with the UFC with a split decision win against Jorge Masvidal at UFC Fight Night 79 in South Korea back in November.

“I’d be remiss to not thank [UFC president] Dana White and [CEO] Lorenzo Fertitta 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,” Henderson continued. “For that I’ll always have the utmost appreciation. Thanks for all the advise you guys gave too, both business wise and personal.”

Henderson competed a total of 14 times in the Octagon, putting together an 11-3 run during a period spanning almost five years. Along the way he won the lightweight title by defeating Frankie Edgar in 2012 and successfully defended it three times before losing to Anthony Pettis a year later.

It’s also worth noting that though ‘Smooth’ wasn’t considered one of the promotion’s biggest draws, he did headline 10 of his fourteen UFC fights, including three pay-per-views and three ‘UFC On FOX’ shows, though his last five appearances were on ‘UFC Fight Night’ cards.

“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,” Henderson wrote. “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.”

Capturing Henderson’s signature is a major coup for Bellator and given that he’s still in his fighting prime at 32 years of age it could easily be argued that the former title holder is their best ever signing.

Henderson isn’t the only former UFC fighter that Bellator have been able to tempt to join them, with the likes of Phil Davis, Josh Koscheck and Tito Ortiz also having done so.

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