Bellator MMA has added another marquee name to its roster. This time, it’s former UFC top welterweight contender Rory “Red King” MacDonald who’s decided to jump ship.

Free Agent Find

The 27-year old Canadian became a free agent after completing his six-fight UFC contract with a loss to now top welterweight contender Stephen Thompson last June.

After the defeat, MacDonald had negotiations with Bellator and the One Fighting Championships. Earlier in the year, MacDonald and the UFC could not come terms to a new contract, forcing the Red King to test the free agency waters.

This Tuesday, the UFC informed MacDonald’s management team that it will not be matching the offer made by Bellator. The following day, MacDonald was officially removed from the UFC’s welterweight rankings, fueling speculations that he had already parted ways with the UFC and had signed with Bellator MMA.

During Friday’s Bellator 160 broadcast, the signing was officially announced and Bellator President Scott Coker had the photo to confirm it:

MacDonald becomes the second high profile UFC fighter to leave in free agency in as many years.

Last year, former UFC Lightweight champion Benson “Smooth” Henderson also signed with Bellator after failed contract negotiations with the UFC. Henderson has since fought for the Bellator Welterweight title and will fight for the promotion’s Lightweight title next following a win on Friday’s event.

The Next Big Thing

Once described as the next big thing in the UFC, MacDonald was a protege of former welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Fighting out of Tristar MMA in Montreal, Canada, MacDonald has an 18-4 record. He holds notable wins over the likes of B.J. Penn, Nate Diaz, Demian Maia and current UFC 170-pound king, Tyron Woodley.

MacDonald lost in his bid for the UFC title when he was stopped in the fifth round by Robbie Lawler during the consensus 2015 Fight of the Year winner at UFC 189. Following that defeat, MacDonald took time off before losing again to Thompson last June.

The Red King joins a solid Bellator Welterweight division which includes champion Andrey Koreshkov, Paul Daley, Douglas Lima, Benson Henderson and hot prospect Michael “Venom” Page, among others.

Said MacDonald of the signing via official statement:

“There are multiple reasons why I choose to fight for Bellator MMA and Scott Coker,” One, they have given me the opportunity to develop and grow a business together. Two, because I already feel respected by the promotion as a professional athlete. And last but not least, because Bellator is offering a setup that no-one in the world can offer me.”

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