Ex-champ Benson Henderson mans up
CHICAGO – Benson Henderson had high expectations for himself when he was the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s lightweight titleholder.
Some might have called them too lofty, given the company he was trying to keep. After winning the title nearly two years ago against Frankie Edgar, Henderson said he wanted to defend the title enough times to break longtime pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva’s UFC records.
But Anthony Pettis derailed that goal in August. Henderson’s title defenses reached three, well short of Silva’s record of 10.
Henderson (19-3 MMA, 7-1 UFC) will be in a position Saturday he has been in only twice before — trying to get back in the win column — when he meets another former champ, Josh Thomson (20-5 MMA, 3-1 UFC), in the UFC on FOX 10 main event at United Center.
That his title loss in August came against Pettis, and in Pettis’ hometown of Milwaukee, was particularly biting given that Henderson’s last loss before that was when Pettis took his World Extreme Cagefighting title before they moved to the UFC. Pettis stopped him late in the first round with an armbar.
“I was sad, obviously,” Henderson told USA TODAY Sports. “But I think I was able to accept it like a man and say, ‘Yeah, you lost. You got your arm caught. Time to go get better.’ I think my other loss to Pettis, I was more depressed. But having gone through it, you can sulk and be sad or you can man up and go forward. Either way, you’re going to have to man up and go forward. Might as well be earlier.”
Henderson’s road back to title contention might need more than a win against Thomson, who was supposed to be fighting for the lightweight title before Pettis headed to the shelf with a knee injury and subsequent surgery.
But a win against the former Strikeforce lightweight champion certainly wouldn’t hurt his chances to get back in the thick of things in what has become a deep weight class in the UFC. Henderson believes in a division of “stone-cold killers … (where) the difference between the No. 10 guy and the No. 1 guy, the guy with the belt, is pretty small.”
In the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie lightweight MMA rankings, Henderson sits at No. 2 behind Pettis while Thomson isn’t far behind at No. 7.
Henderson thinks he can go on another lengthy run like the seven-fight streak that started his UFC career, and it starts against Thomson. But whether Saturday’s fight remains a title eliminator for either fighter, Henderson isn’t sure.
But he plans on doing whatever is necessary to change any minds that think he won’t be ready to get back in there with Pettis by beating Thomson.
“It’s up to (UFC President) Dana White, (matchmakers) Joe Silva, Sean Shelby, those guys,” he said. “Dana’s on record saying I’ll need a couple more wins. But Dana says a lot of things. It’s my job to make the case inside the octagon. ‘Oh, I’m not going to fight for a title soon? We’ll see.’”