With MMA being such a young sport, there is always room for a first. First female fight in the UFC. First flyweight fight. First this. First that. In a sea of firsts, the opportunity to make history is plentiful. Try this one on for size: First man to successfully defend the UFC lightweight title four times.
That seems to have a nice ring to it, but for the current champ, Benson Henderson, it really doesn't hold any added appeal. Should he best Anthony Pettis in their upcoming scheduled bout, that first will just be another factoid in his ever expanding Wiki bio. For Henderson, it's all about putting on his best performance, and making sure the belt stays firmly affixed to his waist. Any extra accolades just become frosting on an already exceptional cake. Here's what he had to say:
There's a First Time For Everything
It's a little more important to me than fighting Grant, I guess you could say. To be honest, I've never been a fan of adding extra stuff to fights. 'Oh this is the first time this, this is the first time that.' People just need a reason to be hyped up to train especially hard. I'm not one of those guys. Every time I step into the octagon, I want to beat the crap out of the guy across from me. It's not anything that's over the top special, but it is cool, and I am happy I can get my hands on Anthony Pettis again. That's for sure.
Being the first lightweight to defend the title four times might motivate me a little bit, but not overly much. There's always going to be a 'new this' or 'first time' that. There's always some kind of extra this or extra that on top. What it boils down to is winning fights. Period. I don't care about any of the extra stuff. If you win your next fight, everything will take care of itself. All I'm concerned with is beating the guy up, the one standing across from me.
Pettis Opened As The Favorite
I didn't know that, but it's cool. The people who determine who the favorites are, the overs and the unders and all that stuff, I'm sure they're very intelligent people. I've been the underdog in so many of my fights in my career, so far. I think I've been the underdog in 80 or 90 percent of my fights, so whoever is making the odds, they're obviously very intelligent.
The T.J. Grant Conspiracy
I wouldn't say I was surprised at public reaction to the announcement, at all. It is what it is. People have a conspiracy theory for everything. People are going to react however they're going to react. I have no control over it.
Changes since 1st Pettis Fight
I wouldn't say there were any huge changes. I'm pretty much stylistically the same. Fighting with a chip (on the shoulder) sounds wrong to me. I don't really like how that's worded. I would say I have an edge, not a chip. It was my one loss in almost seven years. It just means I'll be more intense and focused about going out there and beating the guy up.
People love to talk this and talk that. I'm just not as good a talker as some of the UFC fighters are. Some of these guys can talk themselves into almost anything. I'm not too big into talking my way into things or talking things up. I just go out there and beat guys up.
I don't really feel too much pressure to get away from decisions in my fights. My first fight in the UFC was against Mark Bocek. My next was against Jim MIller. The next one was Clay Guida. Those were all decisions, but nobody was really complaining about them then. I'm really just after having good performances, and when I do, everything else just falls into place. It takes care of itself. If you have a good performance and you get the knockout, awesome. If you get the submission, that's even better. If you go out there and dominate guys in a decision against guys like Bocek, Miller and Guida, those sort of guys, you never hear anybody complaining about those.
I do believe that balance is an underutilized and underappreciated facet of MMA, and athletics in general. If you want to be a good athlete, you have to have good balance. it's something I've had since I was young, and it's something I rely on now, so I work on it continually. I focus on it a great deal now, and try to get better at it.
Adapting Collegiate Wrestling to MMA
I'll be honest with you, my collegiate, singlet style wrestling was not at all conducive for MMA. I got a Greco-Roman coach, because I wasn't very good at all in that. I focused on that for a whole year. All I did was upper body Greco-Roman wrestling. I had to completely change my style.
My singlet wrestling was totally not good for MMA. I'd get kicked in the head and kneed way too much. I realized and my coach, John Crouch, realized that I was too good a wrestler to always get my shots stuffed. It was something we focused on a lot. Thankfully all that hard work paid off, and I've been doing pretty good.
Striking In The Clinch
That's something we definitely focus on a lot. Good striking is great to set up your shots. I'm still relatively young in the sport. My last fight against Gilbert Melendez ... he had his first pro fight in 2002. I didn't even graduate college until 2006. He probably has 30,000 hours of actual boxing practice under his belt. I didn't start until the end of 2006, so I'm behind him by about 10,000 hours of striking practice, hitting those mitts. Same thing with Nate Diaz. These guys have been around and fighting a lot longer than I have.
I think I'm hitting my groove now, and finding my comfort zone with my striking. It's just been a matter of time to get there. I've still got a lot of room to grow and get better, but I am growing and getting better and improving. Imagine how good I'm going to be in three or four more years. I'm still young. I've got the UFC belt, too, so there's that.
Submission Grappling Circuit
It's really nice for me to compete. I love to compete, whether it's at Monopoly, Tic-Tac-Toe, or jiu jitsu tournaments. Whatever it is, I just love to compete. It's a good time for me. I think it brings out the best in people. Jiu jitsu is kind of closely related to MMA, so it's nice to go out and get in those tournaments without the weight of the world on my shoulders. There's not as much pressure on me about winning or losing. If I get caught in an armlock, it's okay. It's just one more armlock setup that I learned, and that I'll never get caught in again. It's pure.
I definitely plan on competing on the circuit a little more. I enjoy it. I would love to do Metamoris. I think that would be a great outlet for me. They do a great job over there. The Gracie brothers do a phenomenal job with it. I'd love to get a match against whoever they want to set me up with over there. I'm down for it.
Henderson faces Anthony Pettis at UFC 164 in August.
You can follow Benson via his Twitter account, @BensonHenderson