Less than 24 hours after Bellator announced its latest talent acquisition, former WEC and UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson (23-5), the promotion confirmed that his first opponent will be welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov. The title fight is set to headline Bellator 153 on April 22 in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Henderson made his welterweight debut last February with a submission victory over Brandon Thatch. He last competed against Jorge Masvidal in November and picked up a decision win.
Henderson parted amicably with with the UFC and spoke to ESPN.com yesterday, citing sponsorship money and a desire to work for the betterment of fighters as driving factors that led him to parting ways with Zuffa, the UFC’s parent company.
"I won't lie, it was a very big deal. The ability to get sponsors on your own and not have to rely on the amount that Reebok dictates to you was a huge factor. I'd be straight up lying if I said it wasn't a very big part of my decision to go to Bellator. I also want to be a trailblazer for the betterment of fighters. Bellator is open to a fighters union -- fighters binding together to see what's in our best interest. That's something you can't even breathe about elsewhere. I think it's a good thing for myself and other fighters to have that."
Henderson also expected a title shot after signing the deal based on his accomplishments in the UFC. Though he will be competing at welterweight, he also has not dismissed the possibility of also competing at lightweight, the division in which he successfully defended the UFC title three times and defeating top ten names such as Nate Diaz, Gilbert Melendez, Donald Cerrone, Frankie Edgar, and Josh Thomson.
The fight will be the first title defense for Koreshkov (18-1). He’s currently riding a five fight win streak and defeated former champ Douglas Lima to win the belt back in a July 2015 bout.