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Gegard Mousasi departs UFC, signs with Bellator MMA

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Gegard Mousasi announced this morning that he had signed a six-fight contract with Bellator, and immediately set his eyes on middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho, light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader, and Rory MacDonald.

Mousasi said that UFC's offer was close to the Bellator offer, but he made his decision based on previously working for Scott Coker. He also said that after his UFC contract expired with his April 8th win over Chris Weidman, his fifth win in a row, that he had also talked to Russian promoters about going into boxing.

Mousasi is 31, but has had 50 MMA fights (42-6-2). He first became a star in Japan in 2006, with Pride, and won the middleweight title with Dream in 2008. He worked for Coker in Strikeforce from 2009 to 2013, before going to UFC. Mousasi was coming off five wins in a row. He was ranked as the number four contender for the middleweight title as of the weekend, behind only champion Michael Bisping, new interim champion Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero, and Luke Rockhold.

Mousasi told Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour that he's looking forward to winning a Bellator title, saying his first goal is the middleweight title, then moving up and challenging for the light heavyweight title. He also said he'd be interested in fighting at heavyweight. In 2009, as a heavyweight, Mousasi knocked out Mark Hunt in the first round in Japan.

"I worked before with Scott Coker," he said. "I have no problems going to Bellator. I know how I'm going to get treated in Bellator and the opportunities I'm going to get there. After the fact (his contract expiring), I knew all the options were open. I wanted to have the best deal for me. In the end, Bellator was a better choice for me."

Mousasi said the money wasn't the factor. He didn't say much negative about UFC, saying the company always treated him well, but did say the Reebok deal was one that left nobody happy and that they didn't even make good shorts. He said that he thought he was ahead of Robert Whittaker and should have gotten the title match with Yoel Romero. He said that if he got offered that spot, he'd have been interested. He also said he believed if he was against either Whittaker or Bisping, that he'd be the favorite in both fights.

He said he'd also like to fight Wanderlei Silva and other legends, as well as MacDonald, saying that both are in their primes.

He didn't say when his first fight would take place past that it would be in 2017, and said he wasn't promised an immediate shot at Carvalho. Representatives of Carvalho contacted the MMA Hour during the interview with Mousasi and said that Carvalho would love to fight him.