Bellator MMA is welcoming another longtime UFC contender into its fold.
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida has inked an exclusive, multi-fight deal with Bellator, sources confirmed with MMA Fighting following an initial report by ESPN. The deal was formally signed Friday.
Machida (24-8) exits the UFC following an 11-year, 24-fight run with the promotion. “The Dragon” holds a perfect 2-0 record thus far in 2018, having picked up a split decision victory over up-and-coming middleweight Eryk Anders then knocked out fellow Brazilian legend Vitor Belfort in highlight-reel fashion with a second-round front kick at UFC 224. The matchup against Belfort represented the final fight on Machida’s UFC contract.
“Bellator is pleased to announce the signing of former world champion Lyoto Machida to an exclusive, multi-fight agreement,” Bellator officials said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing ‘The Dragon’ compete inside the Bellator cage in the near future.”
A 40-year-old karate stylist, Machida has long been a force in the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions. He began his Octagon career in 2007 with a blistering 8-0 run that propelled him to the light heavyweight championship and included victories over Tito Ortiz, Rashad Evans, and Mauricio Rua. In 2013, “The Dragon” dropped to middleweight and nearly captured a second title with a classic war of attrition against Chris Weidman at UFC 175, a fight which Machida ultimately lost via razor-close decision.
Machida is the latest in a long line of UFC contenders to make the switch over to Bellator in recent years, joining Rory MacDonald, Gegard Mousasi, Benson Henderson, Matt Mitrione, and Chael Sonnen, among several others.