UFC Champ Benson Henderson Eager To Fight Anthony Pettis, But Focused On T.J. Grant
By Tony Kamps
Being one of the most talented fighters on the planet is not enough for UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. He is dedicated and driven to become the most complete athlete in professional sports. Constantly striving to improve all aspects of his game he recently earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He talked about earning that belt, his upcoming fight against TJ Grant, and Anthony Pettis.
The status of attaining a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has a certain aura about it that not many can claim. Earning this achievement takes years of dedication to the martial art, which includes sacrifice of enjoying life outside of the gym. For professional fighters hours on top of hours are spent in the gym on a daily basis working to become the best. Recently Henderson earned his black belt.
“Getting it for me was a very big deal it just shows the actual hard work and dedication, how much time I put into it,” Henderson said.
Knowing how big of a deal this was Henderson’s coach, John Crouch from MMA Lab, decided to make a compilation video of important people congratulating him on the honor. Amongst the people were his mom, Lorenzo Fertitta, Jon Jones, and his High School wrestling coach.
“John made it a very big deal a very big occasion for me, [and] made the video,” Henderson said. “I will not lie I’m not too man enough to admit that I did tear up a little bit, I might have shed a few tears while watching the video and then just realizing everything I have sacrificed I have put into it.”
Making this video really does not explain how close Henderson is to Crouch. A bond between coach and athlete can sometimes transcend to levels that non-athletes will never understand. In the beginning of the video, which shows a date of January 2008, you hear Crouch tell Henderson that he will be a star someday. Henderson has proved him to be correct, and he is happy to have done so.
“For me it means a lot, it means a ton John is one of my best friends I love him to death I’d do anything for him,” Henderson said. “[He’s] a good coach – an awesome coach, the most underrated coach in MMA, and one of the best coaches in MMA.”
“Also a good guy, great family guy just a good person someone I wouldn’t mind being half the dad he is when I have kids myself,” continued Henderson.
The bond has equaled great success as Henderson has gone 7-0 since making the move to the UFC from WEC. It has also led to him winning the UFC lightweight title from Frankie Edgar at UFC 144. The only knock people have against the champion is his lack of finishes inside the octagon. It’s not anything Henderson worries about.
“My style of fighting the way I fight I definitely fight to go beat people up, I fight to end the fight,” Henderson said. “You leave your neck out there I’ll take your neck and I’ll end it with a submission, you give me your arm I will end the fight in a submission.”
“It just so happens fighting the best guys on the planet it’s hard to get a finish,” continued Henderson.
And to those that are not fans of Henderson because of his lack of finishes, he believes people can believe and think what they want about him.
“You can think there are aliens, there are UFOs, you can think that there’s a Bigfoot you can have your opinion it doesn’t really matter to me,” Henderson said. “I’d say you’re welcome to try it yourself, why don’t you give it a shot why don’t you go in there and try and go get a finish in the UFC octagon.”
One man that Henderson could not finish was his last loss; Anthony Pettis. Since having to pull out of his scheduled title fight with Jose Aldo at UFC 163 Pettis has been lobbying to be inserted into the main event of UFC 164 against Henderson. After hearing what Pettis said on The MMA Hour Henderson let loose.
“Anthony Pettis he does a great job of talking, a great job keeping himself relevant,” Henderson said. “He’s had three fights in his UFC career, at the same time I’ve had seven fights in my UFC career.”
“But he does a good job of keeping his name out there staying relevant I have nothing against him,” continued Henderson.
Not known for his trash talking, the normally very reserved Henderson did not stop there.
“He’s the last guy to beat me, the only guy to beat me in the past six years almost going on seven years. Am I against fighting him? No, not at all,” Henderson stated. “I will beat anybody Dana White puts in front of me; put him across the cage I’ll beat him up.”
“I’m sure at some point in time we’ll be seeing each other again, and I will – am eagerly anticipate that date,” continued Henderson.
Henderson asked what Pettis’ middle name was, and when he was told it was Paul he had this to say:
“Anthony Paul Pettis, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you some day, when we do when the UFC gives you – when you earn a title shot, when the UFC gives you a title shot I’ll be there with the belt waiting.”
His opponent, for the time being, is TJ Grant not Anthony Pettis. Grant earned the right to fight for the title with his TKO of Gray Maynard at UFC 160. When asked if he was surprised how quickly Grant dispatched of Maynard he said, “I was to be honest with you, I was a little bit surprised that the way TJ Grant Maynard fight went.”
Going through all of the media calls Henderson explained that they are overlooking Grant by focusing on rematches and other potential opponents, but he is not.
“You do a lot of media and you they want to talk about other people,” Henderson said. “My focus is on TJ Grant because he wants to hit me really, really, really, really, really hard and I don’t want him to.”
Nobody does just ask Maynard and Matt Wiman, but that will be the challenge Henderson faces when he defends his lightweight title against TJ Grant at UFC 164 on August 31st at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, WI.