There was plenty of chatter among MMA circles when Benson Henderson announced he had parted ways with UFC to sign on to Bellator MMA. The news came as a surprise for some because Henderson has been a staple fighter in UFC since 2011. Also, “Smooth” is switching promotions despite an excellent 2015, winning both of his fights against Jorge Masvidal at UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Masvidal and Brandon Thatch at UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Thatch. Still, it does not matter what reasons Benson Henderson had for switching promotions because he is now signed to Scott Coker, not Dana White.
Apparently, Scott Coker is willing to reward Benson Henderson for jumping on the Bellator MMA bandwagon. It is now reported that Henderson will be rewarded a welterweight championship fight against Andrey Koreshkov this coming April.
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The upcoming fight was confirmed when ESPN spoke to Bellator MMA officials on Tuesday, February 2, 2016. Benson Henderson versus Andrey Koreshkov will take place on April 22, 2017 in Uncasville, Connecticut at Bellator 153: Koreshkov vs. Henderson inside the Mohegan Sun Arena. It will also be marked as Henderson’s debut in the promotion too.
Both Benson Henderson and Andrey Koreshkov are going into the fight not just on equal footing, but with current winning streaks. For the former, Henderson – as mentioned earlier – won his last two fights in UFC last year. As for the latter, Koreshkov is still riding high as a champion on a five-fight win streak. The only difference between the two is when they last fought. Henderson last fought back in November, while Koreshkov last fought back in July. This detail may make or break who wins. Henderson is more in-tune to fight one-on-one in a cage since he did recently but Koreshkov is better rested.
The fact Benson Henderson is already getting a title shot in Bellator MMA caused many to believe he left UFC with animosity over not getting a title shot. However, that couldn’t further from the truth as both Henderson and UFC parted ways on what appears to be amicable terms. According to The Roar, both Henderson and UFC President Dana White gave provided cordial statements to each other. Henderson thanked White, Lorenzo Fertitta, and over two dozen behind-the-scenes workers on his official website. White, on the other hand, called Henderson a “great guy” who “got the best deal for him,” during an interview with MMA Junkie.
Summarized, both Benson Henderson and Dana White understood it was business and what may be a good deal for one party may not be as good of a deal for another. UFC’s deal with Reebok is an excellent example of this, as White finds the deal to be profitable for the promotion, but Henderson found it to be a hindrance, especially when it comes to getting paid. This is one of the reasons why he made the jump to Bellator MMA.
“I won’t lie, it was a very big deal. The ability to get sponsors on your own and not have to rely on the amount that Reebok dictates to you was a huge factor. I’d be straight up lying if I said it wasn’t a very big part of my decision to go to Bellator.”
Ultimately, the true winner is Scott Coker and Bellator MMA. Because of UFC and their exclusive Reebok contract, the free agent movement has been gaining steam. Coker is willing to actually negotiate and work with those he signs which is something many fighters never got the chance to do before. In a way, it shows that Coker cares about his fighters as much as he cares about his promotion.
[Image via Benson Henderson’s Official Facebook Page]