Yahoo Sports first reported the signing, which was later confirmed by Smith via Twitter:
------Look who just signed with @BellatorMMA !!! -------------------------------- thank you #TeamMelendez for providing the career advising necessary to take this step, couldn't have done it without @GilbertMelendez and @KeriMelendez415— Leslie Smith (@LeslieSmith_GF) April 16, 2019
Thank you @ScottCoker for bringing me in! https://t.co/1QKUkoyZwr
Smith has been at odds with the UFC ever since the promotion paid the fighter her full purse for a canceled bout at UFC Fight Night Atlantic City, which would then be followed by the promotion deciding to end the fighter’s contract.
A newly signed Smith would tell Yahoo Sports that she went with Bellator MMA because they do not have a climate of fear like the UFC allegedly does.
“What I’m so excited about signing with Bellator for is that I do not think they do not have that climate of fear that was present in the UFC,” Smith said. “They’re a company that cares. They listen to their fighters. They put their fighters first and they give them the opportunity to have sponsors and there is a lot of expression that can happen inside those deals with the sponsors.”
There is no word yet on when the fighter will make her promotional debut, but Smith will enter a weight class currently ruled by Julia Budd.