While it has been seen that a lot for he free agents are talking about moving promotions or atlas testing the waters, the first one to move has announced and it is a former champion. That is right, Benson Henderson has moved to Bellator and it is assumed hew ill challenge for the title at 155 or 170 almost immediately. He enters on a two fight win streak out of the UFC at Welterweight though.
According to Dana White, Henderson had the ability to make a lot more money with the UFC contract, but he had to become champion to do so. That most likely means a significant bump in pay and maybe a cut of PPV buys. White admitted the up front pay was more through Bellator per fight, but henderson admitted that the ability to make money via sponsors did influence the move. The question is though, how much money can he made?
While Bellator has had some decent ratings in the past, they rarely match the ratings on Fox Sports 1 for the UFC, and if Henderson was to fight on big Fox or PPV, it would almost be certain that he would reach a wider audience and the espouse the UFC garners. Now, being on Spike TV, sponsors may not be what they used to when fighting in the Octagon. The again, with only making $15,000 from Reebok it may not be that hard to make more.
White said he was happy with Henderson’s decision, but he said they are looking for guys that are trending toward the top 5 and not trending toward moving down the rankings. To some extent he is right. The MMA community was in an uproar when they cut Jon Fitch and Jake Shields, but they proved to be a smart move. Shields left the UFC two years ago wafter a boring loss to Hector lombard which was preceded by two close split decision wins. While he won his first two fights for WSOF, he lost by submission to Rousimar Palhares. With left three years ago at age 34 after a 1-2 run in his last three UFC bouts. While he has done slightly better at 3-1 in the WSOF, he still lost to Rousimar Palhares who was at best a mid card fighter in the UFC.
Henderson leaves a little bit younger at 32 years old, but his run at 155 that last few years was up and down with a blowout loss to Anthony Pettis, who is not champion anymore, a dubious win over Josh Thompson, a decent win over Rustam Khabilov, and then two losses to Donald Cerrone and current champion RDA. He only has a following due to he short notice fight over Brandon Thatch, but then he sat out nearly a year due to injuries and beat fellow former lightweight. Will he be champion in Bellator? Probably. Could he make Lightweight without IV usage? Maybe. Would be be champion at 170 in the UFC? Doubtful.