Benson Henderson's first fight as a Bellator man will be for gold. Henderson, the former UFC and WEC lightweight champion, is slated to debut April 22 at Bellator 153 against reigning welterweight titleholder Andrey Koreshkov, MMA Fighting confirmed Tuesday following an initial report from ESPN.
Henderson (23-5) this week became the latest and most high-profile free agent to make the leap from the UFC to the Bellator cage. The 32-year-old cited the UFC-Reebok deal along with other "intangibles" as the driving forces behind his decision, adding that although the UFC made a "strong offer" to keep him, it was actually third in line behind the offers made by Bellator and Singapore's ONE Championship.
Henderson is a record-tying UFC champion, with his three lightweight title defenses over Frankie Edgar, Nate Diaz, and Gilbert Melendez tying only B.J. Penn for the most ever in UFC history. His list of scalps at lightweight is impressively thorough as well, highlighted by additional wins over Donald Cerrone (x2), Jim Miller, Josh Thomson, and Jamie Varner.
Henderson closed out his UFC run by winning back-to-back fights at welterweight, submitting Brandon Thatch on short notice, then outpointing Jorge Masvidal. He said on Monday that he intends to continue competing in both weight classes under the Bellator umbrella, and that starts at 170 against Koreshkov (18-1), a red-hot Russian striker who has won five straight fights since losing to Ben Askren.
The 25-year-old Koreshkov earned his way back to the Bellator title by sweeping through season 10's welterweight tournament, then captured the belt last year with a five-round decision over Douglas Lima.
Bellator 153 takes place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The night's main card will air live on Spike TV.