Josh Thomson would love to see Benson Henderson come over to Bellator. The very idea of the Bellator lightweight division adding the former UFC champion gets Thomson pretty excited.
More importantly, though, Thomson would like Henderson -- and any other MMA free agent -- to weigh their options and make a decision that is best for them and their families.
"I'm not giving him advice," Thomson said. "I'm giving all fighters advice. My advice to them is you have to treat this like you're playing for the Baltimore Ravens or the San Francisco 49ers or you're LeBron James going from Miami back to Cleveland. It's a free market agency and one team wants you and one team wants to keep you. Go to the highest bidder. Whoever that is. Hence the free market."
Thomson signed with Bellator in August after a two-year run with the UFC. "The Punk" has said that Bellator gave him a better overall deal than he would have gotten from the UFC with sponsorships and fight purses combined. The UFC's uniform deal with Reebok has hurt fighter compensation in a major way since athletes can no longer wear their sponsors' logos on their fight gear.
Henderson became a free agent following a split decision win over Jorge Masvidal at UFC Fight Night 79 on Saturday in South Korea. "Smooth" is a former WEC and UFC lightweight champion and has been an elite fighter at 155 for six or seven years. Henderson has also now added an ability to fight at welterweight to his résumé. He has won two in a row at 170 after the victory against Masvidal.
In interviews over the last few weeks, Henderson has expressed an interest in staying with the UFC. His goal has always been to win belts and he very rarely talks about money. Thomson thinks he needs to at least see what his value is on the open market, which it seems like Henderson will do.
"You know what people are afraid of?" said Thomson, who meets Pablo Villaseca in the main event of Bellator 147 on Friday in San Jose. "They're afraid to see what they're actually worth. I'm telling you right now, you're worth more than you realize. And that's what's going to happen. You're going to find out. Sometimes it might not be the one you wanted. But guess what? It's probably going to be a little bit better than had you just stuck it out where you were."
Henderson actually beat Thomson via controversial split decision in a UFC main event fight back in February 2014. Thomson would love a rematch. But he'd prefer Henderson weighed his options. If the UFC gives offers him more money, Thomson would recommend he stay there.
"If you're not happy with where you're at, then potentially go somewhere else," Thomson said. "Look, would I like to have that fight back? Heck, yeah. I would. I feel like I won the last fight. But he's gotta do what's best for his family. Would it be great to have him over at Bellator? Heck yeah, it would. To think about the potential of the fights that could happen between me and Ben, Chandler, Rickels and Will Brooks. If you think about that group of lightweights, you could build a promotion around that."