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Josh Thomson signs 'fighter-friendly' Bellator MMA contract, UFC unable to match offer based on Reebok/FOX partnerships

No. 11-ranked UFC lightweight Josh 'The Punk' Thomson has decided to switch sweaters, jumping ship to Bellator MMA ... "where the money is."

Bellator MMA

It may comes as a shock to learn that Josh "The Punk" Thomson -- ranked as high as No. 11 in Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) Lightweight division within the last 30 days -- has suddenly left the promotion and signed with Bellator MMA.

Then again, with former Strikeforce head Scott Coker as President -- and the long history that Coker and Thomson have together -- it should not surprise you that Coker is ecstatic about his latest free agent acquisition.

"I had the pleasure of working with Josh in Strikeforce and I look forward to continuing this relationship in Bellator MMA. Josh is a world-class mixed martial artist and we are very happy to be adding him to our roster of some of the best lightweights in the world."

It appears that Thomson is just as pleased with the move:

Word of Thomson leaving the fold leaked out before Bellator's official announcement via Twitter, giving "The Punk" an opportunity to beat back rumors that UFC declined to make an offer to the 36-year-old veteran, who has dropped four of his last five bouts.

"I'm over here reading this UFC reporter saying that they've declined to re-sign me when the truth of the matter is that they've been trying to re-sign me for my last two fights. I declined and instead chose to fight out my contract and test the free agency market with Bellator. At that point, Bellator made me an offer that the UFC was unable to match given their relationships with FOX and Reebok. It's a done deal, I'm back working with Coker, and I couldn't be more excited to get back to an organization that is trending upwards with fighter-friendly contracts."

Thomson came up on the wrong end of split decision fights with both Bobby Green and Benson Henderson. Bad judging isn't UFC's fault, but by the time he lost the Tony Ferguson fight -- and the introduction of the controversial Reebok deal -- his heart no longer seemed to be with the promotion.

Coker believes Bellator can give Thomson exactly what he was looking for:

"Bellator remains fully committed to building its roster by signing top free agents like Thomson, as well as grooming up-and-coming blue-chip stars. We have some amazing matchups in mind for 'The Punk' that we hope to be announcing in the weeks to come."

And for "The Punk" it seems like bling-bling is the biggest motivating factor.

"Any intelligent fighter is going to go where the money is, and for me the money was at Bellator."

To check out complete Bellator MMA coverage at click here

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