10:08 AM PT -- Flair has released a statement on the move ... saying he has no beef with WWE and he's thankful for all the organization has done for his career.
"They solely are responsible for putting me in the position of life that I'm in right now, where I'm seen in the brightest light ever," Flair said Tuesday.
Flair says it was his request to be released from WWE ... and he's grateful to have it granted.
"We have a different vision for my future. I wish them nothing but continued success! Thank you for everything! Nothing but respect!"
Wrestling legend Ric Flair is no longer with WWE -- the Nature Boy has been released from his contract, the company confirms to TMZ Sports.
It goes without saying -- Flair is one of the most iconic wrestlers to enter the squared circle ... he's a 16-time world champ and has been a fan favorite since joining the World Wrestling Federation in 1991.
It's not the first time Flair has parted ways with McMahon's company -- he left in 1993 for WCW before returning to WWF in 2001.
72-year-old Flair had a cup of coffee with other promotions in the '00s -- including Total Nonstop Action Wrestling and Ring of Honor -- before returning to WWE in 2012. He stayed with WWE up until this week.
While Naitch is one of the most recognizable wrestling superstars on the planet, we're told the move is not a complete shock ... despite Flair re-upping with WWE last May.
At the time, Flair told Wrestling, Inc., "Well it's not for life but I hope [WWE keeps] renewing me. You never know, but I'm obviously not gonna go anywhere else if they didn't renew me."
We're told the split has been in the works ... and both sides ultimately came to an agreement recently.