World-ranked middleweight Hector Lombard will leave his longtime home at Bellator and sign with the UFC.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney confirmed the move to MMA Fighting on Tuesday afternoon.
Lombard currently has one of the longest unbeaten streaks in MMA. He hasn't lost a fight since December 2006. Since then, he's gone 25 straight fights without a defeat.
Bellator had a right to match the UFC's offer to the man who was their reigning middleweight champion, but Rebney cited differences between the two organizational models as the obstacle that could not be overcome when it came to matching the UFC's deal.
"We have a business model where we make decisions based on analyzing data," he said. "Since the first day we came into being, we made decisions based on real models, not hypotheticals. The UFC model is largely based on pay-per-view, and the offer they made to Hector is going to be monetized via pay-per-view. While pay-per-view could play a role in our future, today it doesn't. So, we did our due diligence to review the UFC contract, analyzed it in terms of charging our audience to see Hector vs. putting him on free TV, and we decided to allow the UFC to sign Hector, where I am extremely confident he will win the UFC middleweight title on pay-per-view."
Lombard, along with former lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez, were the first two fighters Rebney signed when he began the promotion in 2008. Because of their long bond, Rebney said he felt he owed it to Lombard to make a quick decision.
"There was no reason to make him wait," he said. "We got the information. We got the very long UFC contract, looked at the data, did the analysis, and made our decision."
Lombard, who is 31-2-1 overall with 1 no contest, went 8-0 with seven knockouts during his run in Bellator, capturing his championship in June 2009 with a fourth-round TKO of Jared Hess. He also successfully defended the belt in a unanimous decision win over Alexander Shlemenko, the only time in his last eight fights his opponent made it to the judges' scorecards.
"He was a great fighter here, and there's no doubt in my mind he'll be a great fighter when he goes to the UFC," Rebney said. "I've said for a long time he's the best middleweight in the world, and I think he'll win the UFC title in short order."
Over the weekend, UFC president Dana White confirmed his interest in Lombard, saying, "I like him. I like him a lot."
Now, it appears he has his man.