Lyoto Machida leaving UFC to sign with Bellator MMA


Lyoto Machida, from Brazil, right, kicks his countryman Vitor Belfort, during their UFC middleweight mixed martial arts bout in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Leo Correa/AP)

Lyoto Machida is the latest fighter to go from the UFC to Bellator MMA.

The former UFC light-heavyweight champion agreed to a multi-fight deal with Bellator on Friday after more than 11 years spent competing in the Octagon.

ESPN’s Ariel Helwani was first to report the news with the promotion later confirming the acquisition of the 40-year-old Brazilian MMA icon.

Machida (24-8) is riding a two-fight winning streak and holds notable victories over current Bellator middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi and Bellator light-heavyweight champ Ryan Bader.

“We got a call from his management that was going to become a free agent about two weeks ago, and when I say free agent, they said matching rights,” Bellator president Scott Coker told MMAJunkie. “Then we had a nice meeting and I felt really good about it, and we submitted an offer and we were waiting to see if Zuffa matched it or not, and I think it was today that they said they weren’t going to, and we were free to move forward with our signing.

“To me, he’s one of the big stars of MMA, and he proved it still has it when he knocked out Vitor Belfort. I’ve always appreciated the traditional martial arts fighting style, and he seemed like a really good guy. I believe that he could be a great asset to our roster. He’ll fight at 185 (pounds) and 205 (pounds). He wants to fight at both weights, and we’ve got a lot of guys that he can fight.”

Machida sent Belfort into retirement with a front-kick KO in his most recent bout at UFC 224 in May. Machida also has wins over former UFC champions Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Rashad Evans, Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin and B.J. Penn.


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