Last night's UFC 150 card was a solid event, yet still left the taste of controversy in the mouths of many fans and a good portion of the media. The lightweight title fight between Ben Henderson and Frankie Edgar was a similar affair to their first outing, minus the onslaught of takedowns that Henderson brought to the table. This battle was almost exclusively executed on the feet, much to my surprise, especially when takedowns dictated the a large portion of the direction of the first fight. In an exclusive Bloody Elbow interview, Henderson discussed his take on the fight, and expressed surprise at the recipients of the FOTN bonus.
Stephie Daniels: There is a contingency of media and fans alike that felt that Frankie won the fight. What are your thoughts on your performance?
Benson Henderson: Well, I didn't have the best performance. I'm pretty critical of myself, but it was definitely enough to get the W and getting my hand raised. All of Frankie's fights are hard, super close and controversial, going all the way back to the first B.J. Penn fight. Even the second B.J. Penn fight was kind of close. Gray Maynard, the second time, was super close, and went to a draw. The third Gray Maynard fight was the only fight in the past eight or nine that wasn't controversial. It seems to me that it's just kind of how Frankie fights, and how very tough he is. He's such a good fighter, a tough fighter, and he doesn't really get beat up ever. He gets rocked, but he doesn't really get beat up. He's just a tough fighter. I take my hat off to him, but I felt good going into the announcement of the decision of the judges.
Stephie Daniels: Immediately following the announcement of the decision, you asked Dana White who he felt won. Was there any question in your mind, or was there an alternate reason you asked him?
Benson Henderson: No, there wasn't a question. It was because the first time we fought, Dana went on record as saying that he thought Frankie won. I just wanted to ask him this second time who he thought won, but he didn't say anything. He just said, 'It was a good, close fight. I had it even going into the fifth round. It was a super close fight.' Then he just said congratulations to me.
Stephie Daniels: The difference in your takedown attempts from the first fight to this one was very noticeable. Was there a reason you chose not to use them, despite their obvious success in the first fight?
Benson Henderson: We felt confident in our stand-up. We felt we could definitely take advantage in the stand-up. We thought they would be gameplanning for the takedowns, so we wanted to kind of mix it up and be tricky [laughs]. We felt we did fine in the first fight standing up. We felt we did more damage, so we thought for the rematch, why not keep it standing again, and try to beat him up a little bit more.
Stephie Daniels: At the end of the first round, you had a very tight choke locked on him. Were you surprised he outlasted it until the bell rang, and did that sort of signal the direction the fight was going to go for the remaining rounds?
Benson Henderson: No, I wasn't too surprised that he was able to defend it. He comes from a good camp of tough guys. He trains with Ricardo Almeida and Renzo Gracie, so I know his submission defense, at the very least, is going to be great. He may not have the best technical jiu jitsu, and he may not be really great in the gi, but his no-gi submission defense is going to be tough as heck.
Stephie Daniels: There were a couple times when he locked up a choke on you. Were you ever, at any point, in any danger?
Benson Henderson: No, not at all. They were actually above my chin, like on my cheek. I didn't really feel he was going for the choke so much as was just trying to hold position. I mean, he'd kind of go for the choke, then he would just hold position, but it was never really there.
Stephie Daniels: Professional boxing allows for 36 minutes of competition in a title fight. Would you like to see MMA offer seven round fights, to give 35 minutes of competition for it's title fights?
Benson Henderson: I would be cool with it, absolutely.
Stephie Daniels: The bout that won the fight of the night bonus only lasted about a quarter of a round. Were you surprised that despite the well fought, five round battle you and Frankie put on, that the co-main event won the honors in that category?
Benson Henderson: I didn't realize that until later on, but once I heard that, yeah, you could definitely say I was very surprised. Cowboy is my boy though, so I'm happy for him. It's good for him to get that bonus, as well as the knockout bonus, but yeah, I was pretty surprised about that.
Stephie Daniels: There always seems to be a group of people, and this group includes Dana White, that regularly uses the phrase, 'Don't leave it in the hands of the judges.' Do you feel that phrase is a fair one to use so frequently, considering that fights, especially at the elite level, aren't always going to end in a finish?
Benson Henderson: I do feel that you should strive to not let any fight go to a decision. Any time you let it go to a judge's decision, you never know what's going to happen. We've all seen some horrendous decisions. That being said, I do think the judges need to be more educated, and need to be held to a higher standard. If a fight is an atrocious decision, and people are like, 'Wow! How the heck did that happen. That's crazy', that's absolutely on the judge's shoulders. The judges need to be educated and held to a higher standard, the same as us fighters are. People are quick to put the onus on the fighters to end fights, but sometimes, fights are kind of tough to end. I think the onus can be shared by the judges that they accurately judge the fights.
Stephie Daniels: Nate Diaz has been announced as your next opponent. What are your thoughts on his style?
Benson Henderson: I think he's a great mixed martial artist. I think he puts it together very well in all facets, especially in his jiu jitsu and boxing. I think he does a good job with all of it. He might be stronger in one area, but other areas might not get that much attention paid to them. He's a tough fighter, and I'm looking forward to the challenge. It's going to be a great fight. He doesn't dance out as much. He comes straight forward, and I am interested in a fight where I have somebody coming straight at me. I'm very ready for that. Let's do it.
You can follow Benson via his Twitter account, @BensonHenderson