The lightweight division is a stacked affair with top prospects on the brink of being contenders at every turn. Names like Nate Diaz, Frankie Edgar and Anthony Pettis fill media pages and fans eyes and ears. Sitting at the top of the mountain, title affixed firmly to his waist, is Benson Henderson. With a division hungry for glory gunning for him, he'll have his hands full defending his title. I had the chance to get a few minutes of his time, to find out what's been happening in his world since the date has finally been announced for his next bout, the rematch with Frankie Edgar.
Stephie Daniels: With the UFC's successful return to Japan, plans are fully underway to hold more cards in Asia. Do you feel that a card in South Korea would be better now or next year?
Benson Henderson: Well, the UFC in Asia is blowing up, as far as the market goes. I've heard about the card for the Philippines and that Japan is getting bigger, like how it was back in the golden age, back in the day. I've seen firsthand how big it is in Korea. There's some really nice gyms and facilities out there, and as far as the UFC going there, I think now would be as good a time as any.
Maybe have myself and Korean Zombie on the card, since he might be getting a title shot soon. Maybe we could have two title fights to headline the card. A lot of other fighters, full Koreans or half Koreans, like myself, could be on the card, as well. Whenever the UFC goes over to Korea, I will be on that card. It would be a pretty successful event, I think.
Stephie Daniels: You recently trained with Chan Sung Jung leading into his fight with Dustin Poirier. Did you pick up any specific techniques from him, or did he pick up any from you that you may have noticed when he went into that fight?
Benson Henderson: Oh yes. Both of us picked up things from each other. I kept my eyes open, picked up a few tricks. He showed me a few things, and I'm sure they did the same. We shared some of our techniques and tips, and it was overall some really good training. It's always nice to see how other places train.
Stephie Daniels: How did you like the gym over there?
Benson Henderson: It's a really nice facility. It's in Seoul, which is a very big city. They had a lot of the same stuff we have at The MMA Lab, my gym. They did have a set of nasty monkeybars. I grew very much to dislike those during my time there [laughs]. There's a whole exercise program that includes the bars, or a bar workout, so that was my first time ever doing a legit bar workout. It was a great workout, but I really disliked them by the time I left [laughs].
Stephie Daniels: What did you think of Chan's performance in the Poirier fight?
Benson Henderson: I thought it was a great scrap. What I like about seeing fights like that, is that I get to see their heart. I got to see them tested and tried, and how they come back from it. In that fight, we got to see Dustin Poirier's heart, and he's got a big one. Chan Sung Jung has the heart of a champion, as well. They also had the skills to back it up, too. It was great to see.
Stephie Daniels: How do you think Chan would do against Jose Aldo?
Benson Henderson: I think it would be a really tough fight. I think Jose is one of the best.
Stephie Daniels: Your fight with Frankie was a unanimous decision, and the vast majority of opinions is that there really wasn't a need for an immediate rematch with him. Why do you think they made the rematch with him such a priority?
Benson Henderson: Who knows? I think a part of that is Dana White being the big boss man and head honcho, scored the fight another way. He felt that fight warranted an immediate rematch, which is fine by me. It's cool.
It was a fun fight for me. I had a good time in there. As far as running it back, by all means, let's do it. We can run it back 10 times, but 10 times out of 10 times, I intend on having the same outcome, if not ending the fight earlier.
Stephie Daniels: Are you a little disappointed that one of the stated reasons was because Frankie has given immediate rematches, he is automatically entitled to one too?
Benson Henderson: Absolutely not. Frankie is the man. He has proven himself to be one of the best champs, and he defended his belt a few times. A lot of guys win the belt one time and they never defend it. I don't want to be one of those guys. Beating a guy like him, a legit pound for pound guy in the top rankings, definitely warrants a rematch. If I had ended it, if I had gone out there and done my job better, and put him away, and then they came back wanting a rematch, I'd probably have said, 'Oh, that's a very curious decision there', but as far as it being a split or unanimous decision, I can understand it.
In my opinion, that's a really tough spot to be in, as a champ. Frankie did it twice. He said, 'Yeah, that's fine. Let's do it. It was a close decision, so let's run it back.' He showed what he has inside, by agreeing to that. I want to be the same way. I want to show what I have inside, and agree to it. Let's run it back. I have no problem with that at all.
Stephie Daniels: What do you think set you apart from Anthony Pettis when the two of you came over from WEC, because you skyrocketed to the top, and he seemed to struggle a little bit?
Benson Henderson: I'm definitely not going to sleep on Pettis. That boy is explosive, he's very skilled, he's very driven. I'm not going to sleep on his skillset or anything he brings to the table. He had a tough fight. He had some holes that got exposed, but I'm sure he's been working on those since. I'm sure he'll be way better in his next fight then he was in his last one. Other than seeing how much heart a guy has, I like to see how much better they get from fight to fight. For me, I always want to be a better fighter than my last fight. Pettis is also one of those guys. He is a better fighter, with each fight, and I think he's going to continue that.
Stephie Daniels: What do you think is the key to beating Nate Diaz?
Benson Henderson: I think any time a guy has a loss on his record, and not just a loss like a headkick or quick knockout in the first ten seconds, that's not an accurate blueprint on how to beat the guy. I wouldn't say it's a fluke, but it's not exactly a blueprint on how to beat them, either.
As far as Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis, and other fighters, there's blueprints on how to beat them. A loss by decision will show you the blueprint, so if you want to follow that same blueprint, or gameplan to a T, and if you have the skillset, you can win. I think I have a good enough skillset to implement whatever gameplan my coaches and I decide to utilize in a fight.
Stephie Daniels: If you could select one thing about your gym that makes it stand above the rest, what would it be?
Benson Henderson: The thing that puts my gym above all others, is the people inside. It doesn't matter how many cool toys you have. Your instructors draw people to your gym. All of our trainers have drawn good people to our gym. Nice family oriented people, come to our gym. I don't like being in a gym full of tough guys walking around with their shirts off. One of them has a bad day, his girlfriend gets mad at him or whatever. He's had a crappy day, so he's going to go to the gym and take it out on everybody. Maybe he tries to pop my arm, and then I'm out of training for six months because he had a bad day. I don't want that. All the people at my gym are just nice, good people. That's what I like most about it.
Stephie Daniels: Is there anyone at your gym that we should be looking out for, someone on the come up?
Benson Henderson: Yes. This kid has been my main training partner since I came to Arizona, pretty much my whole career. He's like 10-1 and I don't know why he's not in the UFC. Outside of Jose Aldo, he would give anybody a run for their money, beat anybody in the UFC at 145. His name is Chris Gruetzemacher.
This kid's a nightmare. He's a terror. He's one of the reasons I'm as good as I am. He pushes me, every day. We help each other get better. He's as good as I am, if not better. He just hasn't got the call yet, so he's fighting on the smaller, regional shows, but this kid is a star in the making. Hopefully it happens soon, and whenever it does happen, he'll be ready.
Stephie Daniels: Your fight is almost 3 months away. What do you do in this last week or two before your fight camp gets underway?
Benson Henderson: Get better. Each and every day, I want to get 1% better. Just give me 1% every day. People want to go in the gym and do everything in one day, put all this work in, all in one day. I want to do something every day. Getting my arm locks 1% better, getting my jabs 1% better. getting my back leg kicks 1% better. It's just sticking to it, each and every day. I'm in my gym six or seven hours a day, getting better. It's hard work. There's no secrets to it.
Follow Benson via his Twitter, @BensonHenderson