UFC 129: Ben Henderson Is Here To Change The Game

Former WEC champion ready for UFC debut

Ben Henderson may have lost his last bout, but he’s back on his feet and ready to show the world that he’s more than just the recipient of a highlight-reel kick.

Henderson is coming off his first loss in three years after dropping a five round battle with up and coming lightweight star Anthony Pettis at the final WEC event held last December. While the highlights from that fight may still make their way around the MMA world, it was the taste of defeat that Henderson found to be the most bitter.

With his former organization merged into the biggest organization in the world, Henderson prepares for the next chapter in his career to begin.

His first test will come against jiu-jitsu ace Mark Bocek on Saturday night at UFC 129. I recently caught up with Henderson to talk about that bout and his pursuit of excellence and respect.

“I think going into every fight there is a lot to prove. You want to win and you want to look good and impressive. If you need extra motivation because you lost your last fight then should you really be fighting? I always want to do my best. I always want to get my hand raised at the end and I always want to look impressive doing it. If I needed to lose a fight to make sure I do good in my next fight then I’d go through my career with a .500 record. I don’t need that because I always want to be the best. Fans know that when I step into the cage I’m there to put on a show. I give everything I have in there.”

Henderson agrees with fighters who say that they’ve learned more in defeat than they have in victory.

“I don’t have any new goals. My goals have always been the same, and that’s to be the best fighter…period. I have the same goals for this fight as I will for my next because you have to have goals that are long term. All of the best businesses and corporations in the world set their goals at least four years down the line. My goal isn’t one or two fights ahead. I’ve definitely had time to refocus on the goals that I set for myself awhile ago, but there wasn’t any soul searching and or having to find myself all over again.”

“I wouldn’t dramatize it, but I lost. It sucked. I thoroughly did not enjoy that at all and I plan on never experiencing that again.”

With Bocek, Henderson is stepping in the cage with one of the best submission grapplers in the sport. He looks forward to testing his own grappling skills in a fight that he believes will be exciting for the fans.

“I think we match-up very well and I think it’s going to be a super exciting fight. A lot of times high level wrestlers end up canceling each other out and you end up having a fight where two guys just stand up and bang for all three rounds. Or it could be one of the most exciting fights you’ve ever seen on the ground with some jiu-jitsu wizardry going on with each guy trying to show up the other guy’s jiu-jitsu. Either way it’s going to be a great show. I’m really excited to go out there and get my hand raised. That’s my main focus and I’m going to do whatever it takes to make that happen.”

Henderson’s cardio is second to none and it is a weapon he plans on using at UFC 129.

“I’m definitely going to make it my advantage. I try to make it a dominant factor in all of my fights. I know that I have better cardio no matter who I’m facing and I know that for a fact. It all comes down to me being able to make it part of the fight and not being too relaxed. If I go in there at 50 mph and the other guy can keep up and hang in there then I’m going to turn the pace up to 100 mph and keep it at 100 mph for the entire 15 or 25 minutes.”

Stepping into the Octagon for the first time is a unique experience for every fighter. It won’t just be Henderson’s UFC debut – it’ll be in front of 55,000 fans. Does that add any pressure for Henderson?

“I think it’s the same going into every fight. Do I expect to be overwhelmed by the experience? No, I don’t. It’s a really cool fight and I’m privileged to be a part of this card because it’s going to break every UFC record there is. Attendance, live gate…it’s going to break all of the records and that’s awesome. It’s a historic moment, but I’ve been involved in historic moments before. I was a part of the last WEC card ever.”

“I’ve been there a few times myself so I don’t think I’ll be overwhelmed but we’ll see how it all plays out. I’ve been in important fights with belts on the line, so I’m not too worried to be honest.”

Henderson is gunning for the top of a division that has rapidly become one of the best in the sport.

“I see a bunch of killers. I see the deepest, most stacked division and the most dangerous weight class in the entire UFC. I see guys who are absolute studs and such a competitive situation that you have a guy who was ranked in the top three but couldn’t get over that hump so he dropped down a weight class. Tyson Griffin is another tough guy who dropped down. I’m super excited to face the challenge and see how I do against those guys. I’m excited just to get the chance because that is all I’ve ever wanted.”

“Give me the chance. Give me a shot. Let me show you what I can do.”

All the past accolades and championships will be pushed aside when Henderson locks up with Bocek under the bright lights of the Rogers Centre. While Henderson may have been one of the most exciting fighters on the WEC roster, he knows that he is stepping into a brand new world come April 30th and knows that you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

“I want to make a great introduction to millions of people who have never seen me fight before. I definitely want to take that opportunity and say ‘Hey…I think you guys are going to like me and I think you are going to like what you see.’ As far as the UFC brass or the people behind the scenes at the UFC, I want them to know that I’m for real. I’m here and I’m going to change the game. I want to let them know that they better pay attention because I’m not going to be a journeyman or a gate keeper or anything close to those things.”

“I’m here to change the game.”

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