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UFC legend and Hall of Fame inductee, Royce Gracie, headed to Bellator MMA

"The Godfather of MMA" has jumped ship ... sorta.

Ethan Miller

Royce Gracie will soon join his fellow Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Hall of Fame brethren, Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar, at Bellator MMA as the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion announced that submission guru would join the Viacom-led team.

While the retired 47-year old legend won't be fighting, he will serve as a Promotional Brand Ambassador for the promotion, with his duties comprising event promotion, as well as helping Bellator increase its global presence.

Gracie offered up a statement via a Bellator press release:

"I have known Scott for a long time and have always respected him as not only a promoter but as a martial artist who has always treated fighters with respect and truly understands their value. Bellator and Viacom want to give fans exciting fights and enable fighters to continue to grow and most importantly provide for their family, and it's something I want to be a part of. UFC has done a great job over the past twenty years in building this sport and taking it globally and I'm glad to have been part of that, but Bellator is a growing organization I am honored to be a part of, and with the dedicated and talented people already associated with the company, we can further the growth of mixed marital arts as a sport worldwide."

Bellator president Scott Coker shared his thoughts, too, on the new partnership:

"To call Royce a legend would be an absolute understatement. Royce and the Gracie family are directly responsible for making this sport what it is today and we are incredibly fortunate to have him be a part of the Bellator family. Royce will serve in many different capacities for Bellator and I look forward to our fighters, staff and most importantly, our fans, in having the chance to interact with one of the most iconic figures in sports."

Gracie's first order of business will be to help promote the upcoming Bellator 131 event, which goes down on Nov. 15, 2014, featuring a light heavyweight showdown between Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar, as well as a lightweight title fight between Michael Chandler and Will Brooks.

That's the same night UFC 180, which features a heavyweight showdown between division champ Cain Velasquez taking on Fabricio Werdum, goes down in Mexico City.

But, those two organizations can go ahead and pack up their stuff and go home because they won't hold a candle to World Series Of Fighting (WSOF) 15 -- which also goes down the same night -- according to company vice president, Ali Abdel-Aziz.

Gracie last competed inside UFC's Octagon in May 2006, losing a one-sided fight to then-welterweight champion, Matt Hughes. His last professional fight, however, came in 2007 when he defeated Kazushi Sakuraba at Dynamite!USA via unanimous decision.

For those keeping track, that's now five former high-profile UFC champions who have joined Bellator over the last two years, including the aforementioned Ortiz and Bonnar, as well as Randy Couture and Quinton Jackson.

No reaction from Dana White and Co. just yet, including whether or not Gracie had his former employer's blessing.

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