Corey Anderson is leaving UFC to sign with rival Bellator MMA and the light heavyweight contender will do so despite not being a free agent.
Anderson’s request to be released from his current UFC deal was granted, multiple sources told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani on Friday. Anderson, 30, then inked a multifight deal with Bellator, officials confirmed to CBS Sports.
Bellator made the signing official when they posted a picture of Anderson with promotional president Scott Coker on Friday.
Still operating at the peak of his prime, Anderson (13-5) is expected to be a major edition to Bellator’s 205-pound division, which is currently headed by champion Ryan Bader. A fellow former UFC veteran, Bader will defend his title on Aug. 21 against Vadim Nemkov and also holds the promotion’s heavyweight belt.
Coker said that Anderson should have a close eye on Bader vs. Nemkov, hinting he may already be in line to challenge for the belt.
Although Anderson, currently ranked No. 4 by UFC, suffered a first-round knockout loss to Jan Blachowicz in February, he had won four straight before that including a resounding stoppage of unbeaten Johnny Walker and a decision over former title challenger Glover Teixeira.
Anderson recently posted a lengthy Instagram message detailing a February accident and hospital stay that temporarily put his fighting career in jeopardy. The native of Illinois claimed he was recently cleared to continue fighting.
He has been seen recently in California, training with Daniel Cormier as he prepares to take on Stipe Miocic in a trilogy bout for the heavyweight crown at UFC 252 on Aug. 15.