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‘I was deathly afraid’ - Benson Henderson ditched toothpick for fear of kids copying him

The former lightweight champ dropped his signature habit after having a child of his own.

Benson Henderson talks to fans at a 2013 UFC press conference.
Benson Henderson talks to fans at a 2013 UFC press conference.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

‘Just wait until you have kids of your own.’ It’s a line so common it’s become a cliche that spans generations. In part, of course, because it so often comes true.

That’s a reality former UFC champion and current Bellator talent Benson Henderson had to face up to after years of walking around, and even competing inside the Octagon, with a toothpick in his mouth. Ironically enough, it’s a habit Henderson apparently picked up from his own father, and one that used to worry his mother.

The longtime MMA Lab talent talked about breaking away from his signature idiosyncrasy on a recent episode of the MMA Hour (transcript via MMA Fighting).

“I try not to have the toothpick anymore,” Henderson explained. “It was just a bad habit. I try not to. I always told my mom that it was because I saw my dad with a toothpick in his mouth, so then I would copy him and be 7, 8, 9 years old running around with a toothpick in my mouth and she’d be all scared, ‘Oh, take it out!’ Then when I had my oldest [child], I envisioned my 6-year old, 5-year old, 7-year old son running around with a toothpick in his mouth and I was deathly afraid. Like, ‘No! You could get really hurt!’

“That’s why I try not to do that whole toothpick thing, just because I’m worried about them copying me. So I try not to.”

All the way through the end of his UFC run, Henderson continued the habit. These past half dozen years, however, he’s been operating under the Bellator banner and, from the sound of things, fighting toothpick-free. Henderson is currently fresh off a victory over Islam Mamedov, handing the Dagestani talent his first loss since 2009 (against ex-Bellator talent Alexander Sarnavskiy no less), and breaking Mamedov’s 20-fight unbeaten streak.

After signing a new multi-fight contract with the Showtime-based promotion, Henderson is now scheduled to face SBG Ireland talent Peter Queally in the headlining slot of Bellator 285 this September. Alongside the lightweight main event, the card is expected to feature a light heavyweight bout between former UFC title contender Yoel Romero and action-fight legend Melvin Manhoef.