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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 13 December, 2018

Rival promotion Bellator seals another major coup at UFC's expense

Former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi is the latest well-known fighter to part company with the UFC.

Gegard Mousasi at the weigh-in for his bout against Uriah Hall in Belfast last November.
Gegard Mousasi at the weigh-in for his bout against Uriah Hall in Belfast last November.
Image: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

BELLATOR ARE AGAIN the beneficiaries of an increasing desire on the part of Ultimate Fighting Championship athletes to test their value as free agents.

The US-based mixed martial arts promotion has announced that it has signed UFC middleweight contender Gegard Mousasi to a multi-fight contract.

Mousasi (42-6-2) leaves the UFC while on a five-fight win streak. It’s a significant coup for Bellator to secure the services of the 31-year-old, who has defeated former UFC champions Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort inside the past nine months.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Gegard to the growing Bellator family,” said Bellator president Scott Coker, who previously worked with Mousasi at the Strikeforce promotion, where the Dutch-based fighter was a light-heavyweight champion.

“He’s one of the most well-rounded fighters in all of MMA and can compete in multiple divisions, so that really opens up some exciting matchmaking opportunities for us and for the fans.”

Mousasi, whose Bellator debut is due to be announced within days, fought 12 times for the UFC since his 2013 debut. He holds other notable career wins over the likes of Dan Henderson, Mark Hunt, ‘Jacare’ Souza, Melvin Manhoef and Hector Lomabrd.

His UFC contract expired after his win against Weidman in April. Instead of accepting an offer to stay with the promotion, Mousasi has opted to resume his career elsewhere.

The Iranian-born fighter is the latest MMA athlete to swap the UFC for Bellator, following in the footsteps of Rory MacDonald, Benson Henderson, Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson, Matt Mitrione, Phil Davis and Ryan Bader, among others.

Speaking on The MMA Hour, Mousasi insisted that his decision to leave the UFC was not just about what Bellator had to offer financially. As well as criticising the UFC’s apparel contract with Reebok, he bemoaned the fact that he was overlooked for a shot at the interim middleweight title, which Robert Whittaker won last weekend at the expense of Yoel Romero.

“It’s not just basically the money,” Mousasi said. “Like I said, I’ve worked with Scott. When Scott promises something, he delivers. He’s an honest guy. He’s a mixed martial artist himself. He treats fighters with respect.”

In relation to Robert Whittaker, Mousasi said: “I thought I was ahead of him. That’s my opinion. I respect Whittaker a lot, he’s nice guy. Congratulations for winning the belt. I think if they would have come and said, ‘You’re fighting for the interim belt’, things would have gotten more interesting to me.”

He added: “Reebok is bad for UFC and I don’t know if the new owners realise what they’re doing. This is not entertainment; it’s different than entertainment. This is fighting.”

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Paul Dollery

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