Gegard Mousasi ended his free agency earlier this week by signing a multi-fight deal with Bellator MMA, which brought to an end his four year campaign with the UFC.
Despite being ranked as one of the top five middleweights in the world, Mousasi and the UFC couldn’t come to an agreement on a new deal so now the former Strikeforce champion will be moving to a new promotional home.
While money will always play a part in a fighter’s decision to stay or go with an organization, Mousasi explains that there were a myriad of reasons behind signing with Bellator MMA rather than re-upping with the UFC.
“Many, many factors,” Mousasi said about his reason for leaving the UFC when speaking to MMAWeekly.com. “The pay was better. The way I’m going to be treated is better. I can have my own sponsors. I have to be realistic about that because Reebok has killed a lot of sponsors. There were a lot of sponsorships that you could have before, they don’t exist anymore. But it’s still better than getting $10,000 from Reebok.
“I get to bring fighters in and Scott [Coker] will give them the opportunity to fight. I will have the opportunity to go to light heavyweight, maybe fight for a title with the middleweight belt. So many things. It’s not just the money to be honest. It’s the treatment that I’m going to get. The way I feel. A lot of factors come to play when it comes to Bellator.”
Of course, Mousasi’s past with Coker when he was fighting for Strikeforce didn’t hurt negotiations at all either.
Mousasi has nothing but compliments to shower on Coker, who he believes is one of the most well respected and well liked promoters in all of mixed martial arts.
“I know [Scott Coker], I know what kind of guy he is,” Mousasi said. “He’s honest, he respects mixed martial artists, he respects fighters. He’s had that from his K-1 days. Working with him, he’s still the promoter and the boss so I need to fight and perform, otherwise I’m going to look bad.
“I have a very friendly relationship with him. I have never heard a fighter complain about Scott Coker — not in Strikeforce, not in Bellator. I’m going to get treated well, that’s for sure.”
Mousasi also noted the opportunities that he’ll have in Bellator MMA far exceed the UFC, especially if he wanted to venture into a different division or possibly even crossover to another sport.
“I have a say in Bellator,” Mousasi said. “I can say Reebok sucks or I want this sponsorship or I want this guy to be drug tested or I want to fight at light heavyweight. Can I have the opportunity to go do some boxing in maybe Russia? Those things are open now.
“In the UFC, it’s no, you do what we tell you to do. It’s more restricted and guidelines that you have to follow. Bellator is more open to that. You have something to say as a fighter, that’s what I believe.”
With his new deal in place, Mousasi is excited to get back to work after picking up his fifth straight win in April when he defeated former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman by TKO.
No fight has been offered to Mousasi just yet but he believes he’ll be back in the cage by the late part of fall with a ton of potential matchups awaiting him.
“I’m hearing September or October. I’m thinking more October because I will have more time,” Mousasi said.
“I’m comfortable proving myself. I’m ready when they give me a fight date, I will be ready.”
As far as the division where he’ll fight, Mousasi admits that he’s a natural middleweight so competing at 185 pounds will always be his home, but that doesn’t mean he’s against the idea of going up to challenge for another title or at least participate in some huge fights that will help promote himself and Bellator at the same time.
“There’s big names in Bellator,” Mousasi said. “People don’t realize that but Quinton Jackson, Wanderlei Silva, Chael Sonnen, Ryan Bader, Phil Davis, “King” Mo [Lawal]. Those are big names and that division is stacked. It’s really stacked. Those are all good matchups. But I’m a better middleweight than I am a light heavyweight so if I get the opportunity to go there and win the belt, it would be a nice accomplishment. That’s a one time deal or maybe one or two fights if I do it. I’m a middleweight.
“Let’s get the middleweight belt first. I will fantasize about two belts but I have to get one first.”