When Benson Henderson walked toward the Octagon at UFC 164, he raised his right arm into the air as his entrance music filled the arena. A short time later that arm hung lifeless by his side as he watched Anthony Pettis celebrate a victory that ended Henderson's reign as UFC lightweight champion.
We haven't heard much from Henderson since that armbar submission defeat on August 31. On Monday, the 19-3 former champion in both the WEC and UFC broke his silence when he appeared on The MMA Hour.
The loss to Pettis was swift, occurring at the 4:31 mark of the first round, it was also the first time Henderson had been submitted in his 14 WEC/UFC fights. Despite those facts, Henderson is not dwelling on what happened in the Octagon that night in Milwaukee. Instead, he is looking forward:
I don't think about the fight a lot. I do think about me getting it back. I think a lot about how I'm going to get my belt, or Anthony Pettis' belt now that he has it. My goal now is to get the belt back. I don't think about the rematch with Pettis all too much. I think about looking forward and getting it back.
The question then becomes, who does Henderson fight to get back toward a title shot? Henderson replied that it was ultimately up his bosses at the UFC to decide the answer to that question, but that if he had his say he would want a recognizable opponent:
I'll fight anybody, but I do agree with Chael Sonnen, it is better to have a name (fighter).
One thing that Henderson does not agree with Sonnen on is calling out another fighter:
I don't agree with people saying that you have to call out who you want to fight next and say ‘I want to beat this guy up because he's so ugly, and I want to beat the ugly out of him, so let's fight.' That's almost contrived, and the fans can sense that it's not real.
Given their druthers, Henderson and his team would like to face the No. 6 ranked lightweight in the UFC, Rafael dos Anjos:
We're kind of leaning toward Rafael dos Anjos. I think it would be a good fight with him. I think the matchup works well for us. I don't know if he has anyone scheduled or not, but that might work.
I think Rafael dos Anjos would be a good matchup. He's a tough fighter. He's on a four or five-fight win streak. I think it would be a good matchup.
Henderson said that another possible opponent could be the No. 7 ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov.
One thing that Henderson is not interested in is a rematch with a fighter he has previously defeated. That would take No. 2 ranked Gilbert Melendez, No. 8 ranked Nate Diaz, No. 9 ranked Jim Miller and No 10 ranked Donald Cerrone out of the equation.
Henderson also said that his team sat down and looked at two possible paths back toward a lightweight title shot:
Ideally we're looking for the best matchup to get the quickest route back to a title shot. My coach, John Crouch and I, we're thinking we could take a breather, and take two or three fights to get a title shot, kind of use that time to improve our skills, get better and take or time, or we can ask to go get it and have the quickest route back to the title shot, and we both agreed that I want that.
When the UFC does give Henderson his next fight, he said he would prefer that contest to be on free television rather than on a pay-per-view card:
I love (fighting on) free TV. I love fighting on Fox because more people watch you. We're talking millions of eyeballs compared to a few hundred thousand eyeballs.
When reminded that UFC president Dana White said that it could be a while before Henderson got another shot at the title if Pettis remains champion, Henderson said:
I'm going to work my butt off to get a title shot. I will change his mind, inside the Octagon.
Henderson's mindset seems to be in the right place as he sits and waits to find out what his first step back toward the UFC title he once held will be.
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