As you likely know by now, Benson Henderson is no longer a UFC fighter, as the promotion’s former lightweight champ has signed with Bellator. It’s not a move that has necessarily turned the MMA world upside down, but it’s a significant acquisition for Bellator. So why did the UFC elect to pass on resigning “Smooth”?
Well, following the news that Henderson had signed with Bellator, MMA Junkie.com spoke with UFC boss man Dana White. The promotion’s president said he is “happy” for Henderson, that this could be the last deal the 32 year-old signs, and that he wishes him all the best. White also, however, stated this:
“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,” White said. “He’s a former world champion who’s ranked No. 15 now. We’re looking for top-5 guys, guys that are going from 15 to 1, not the other way around.”
Now depending on your opinion of Henderson and or White, you might be tempted to see that as a subtle shot at the former champ. Yes, even if White is happy for Henderson, it doesn’t sound like he thought Henderson had another UFC title run in him. Did he? Hard to say.
In the end, this is likely more about the fact that Henderson never became a huge favorite with the “just bang bro’ demographic, or casual fans. This is the company, let’s not forget, that signed CM Punk. Is he heading to the top five?
In terms of skill, Henderson is a remarkable talent and continues to be that. After all, we’re talking about a guy who took out Brandon Thatch one year ago, and is coming off a decision win over Jorge Masvidal. Many people had him beating Donald Cerrone last January, who is a darling amongst MMA fans for understandable reasons.
But, for Bellator, Henderson can be a focal piece in their lightweight or welterweight division. A guy, who if he puts together some big wins, will bolster their argument that not all of the planet’s best are with the UFC. So, a return on their sizeableminvestment could very well materialize.