It was the news that "broke the Internet" earlier today, or at the very least, pushed MMAFighting offline for a short period of time. That's because Benson Henderson -- former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight champion -- signed a contract to compete for rival promotion, Bellator MMA.
UFC President Dana White is notoriously prickly when fighters jump ship, but "Smooth" seems to be the word of the day as the waters are calm in the wake of the surprising news, with White praising Henderson's decision to leave.
"I'm honestly happy for Benson. I'm not angry. Who knows? This could be the last contract he ever signs. He got the right deal for him. He's a great guy, and we wish him all the best."
In doing so, White hinted that Henderson turned down a UFC deal that was potentially worth more money, but only if the former champ could work his way back to the top spot.
"The truth is we made him an offer that would have paid him substantially more -- like not even in the same ballpark -- than he's getting now if he were to become world champion again, but he chose their deal, which offered more up front."
In the end, it did not appear that Henderson was in UFC's master plan -- earning a future title shot was certainly no lock. All in all, it's about the nicest parting statement a UFC fighter will ever get from his/her former employer. And Henderson was not shy about returning the respect to his Zuffa friends.
"I'd be remiss to not thank Dana White and 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. For that I'll always have the utmost appreciation. Thanks for all the advice you guys gave too, both business wise and personal."
No word yet from Bellator about Henderson's promotional debut and when and/or where it might take place. However, one has to wonder if Bellator might rematch him with Josh Thomson now that the two are under the same flag.
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