UFC Lightweight Champ Benson Henderson Ready For Gilbert Melendez: “He May Not Have The Biggest Name…But I Know How Tough Gil Is”
By Kelsey Mowatt
Benson Henderson began his tenure as UFC Lightweight Champion by defeating one of the promotion’s biggest names in Frankie Edgar, not once, but twice. Up next, he worked his way to an impressive, unanimous decision win over another established star in Nate Diaz. If some fans hadn’t realized there was another Henderson in the UFC whose first name wasn’t “Dan” prior to the victories, they certainly should be now.
In somewhat of an interesting reversal, Henderson has been tapped to take on Gilbert Melendez, who like him not too long ago, has yet to make an impression with more casual or “UFC only” fans. Despite the fact that the Strikeforce champion may not have the same profile yet as Edgar, Diaz or even other previous opponents like Jim Miller or Clay Guida, Henderson is not overlooking his UFC on FOX 7 competition.
“I’m definitely not looking past Gilbert,” Henderson said on a recent media call to promote their April 20th bout in San Jose. “Gilbert is tough as heck; he may not have the biggest name, there may be bigger fights and all that blah, blah, blah, out there, but I know how tough Gil is.”
Of course, no one should be surprised that Henderson is not taking Melendez lightly, as for sometime now, the Cesar Gracie has widely been regarded as one the sport’s best lightweights.
“He’s the Strikeforce champ,” Henderson (18-2) added about Melendez (21-2), who brings a seven fight win streak to the Octagon that includes wins over notable vets like Josh Thomson, Shinya Aoki and Tatsuya Kawajiri. “He’s rated top two, top three on the planet for a reason. I’m not looking past him at all; not even close.”
In fact, Saturday’s bout presents a unification bout of sorts, which didn’t materialize in other divisions after Strikeforce closed it’s doors. The defunct promotion’s middleweight champ Luke Rockhold will make his Octagon debut against Vitor Belfort; welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine will square off with Robbie Lawler in his first UFC bout; the promotion’s heavyweight grand-prix winner Daniel Cormier is fighting Frank Mir that same night.
“I just want to go out there and win every fight,” said Henderson, while discussing whether he’s looking at the bout as an opportunity to demonstrate he is the world’s undisputed champion. “There’s always going to be new and different stipulations, new and different reasons…I’m going to want to win a fight for this reason or that one.”
“I don’t really need any ulterior motives,” the 29 year-old fighter noted. “I’m a really self-motivated person. I just want to go out there and win every single fight. It doesn’t matter who the guy is, what the extra stuff on top of it is, I just want to go win period.”
Of course, since losing the WEC title to Anthony Pettis in December, 2010, all Henderson has done is win. The Arizona fighter has won all six of his Octagon appearances to date since arriving in the UFC in April, 2011.
“I don’t care at all about belts and all that stuff,” the well rounded lightweight furthered. “It’s nice and all that, I will take the belt and everything, but the goal with any fight, I don’t care if it’s your first fight in the UFC, first time on a main card, first time as a main event, it all doesn’t matter, you just have to win. I can’t emphasize that enough. It doesn’t matter if a belts on the line….I’m going to go out there and win every fight. That’s it.”