Benson Henderson may not be the most talked about prospect in MMA, but he could easily make the claim for being one of the most overlooked.
Henderson, a two time All-American wrestler from Dana College, has put together an impressive record of 8-1 since making his mixed martial arts debut back in November of 2006. He most recently submitted fellow top prospect, Anthony Njokuani, by guillotine choke on the undercard of WEC 38.
The up and coming lightweight will finally have his opportunity to show the world what he is all about when he faces off with Shane Roller in the main card of WEC 40 on April 5.
Roller has been rolling through his competition lately, winning all five of his last five bouts by stoppage since dropping his debut in September of 2007. His last bout saw him submitting Mike Budnik in the first round with a guillotine choke at WEC 37.
In an exclusive interview with FiveOuncesOfPain.com, Henderson made clear that he made his venture into MMA with one goal, and that was to become the best pound for pound fighter in the game. Although he knows he still has a lot to learn, Henderson is ready to take the next step in his quest to become the best when he faces off with Roller in what is sure to be an exciting affair.
Cory Brady for FiveOuncesOfPain.com: How are you feeling physically heading into your fight with Shane Roller?
Benson Henderson: Oh yeah. I’m definitely feeling 100% right now. Of course, before any fight you’re going to have your little nicks and injuries, but for the most part I’m 100%. Just the little things that let you know that you’re training right.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: Who are some of the key people that have been helping you to prepare for this one?
Benson Henderson: I’m training out of the MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona. My jiu-jitsu instructor and head MMA coach is John Crouch. He’s one of only three guys that have been certified under Royce Gracie. My kickboxing coach is Adam Gilespy. We have a really young team. We really focus on bringing guys all the way up from the start of their careers. A lot of guys hop around from gym to gym, and we don’t really want to bring them in for six months and we never see them again. We’re really interested in keeping everyone really close and bring them up from the start. Chris Krismarker and Charlie Brown are a couple of my main training partners.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: What are some of the key areas you have been focusing on in the gym since your last win?
Benson Henderson: I’ve really been focusing on a little bit of everything. I’m still really young in the game, so I feel like I need improvement in every aspect of MMA. Just trying to sharpen everything up and take it all to another level.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: I know you have a strong wrestling background, but do you generally feel comfortable when you’re on your feet, or during sparring?
Benson Henderson: At first I did not. To be honest, when I first started my stand up was absolutely horrible. It was just not very good at all. I’ve put a lot of hard work and time into it. I really focus on that part of my game, the boxing and the kickboxing, so now it has become second nature to me.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: What do you know about Shane and how do you feel you guys match up?
Benson Henderson:I know that he’s a three time All American from Oklahoma State. I know that he’s been working on his jiu-jitsu with Marc Laimon, and I’m sure he’s been working on his striking too. We’re pretty similar, being that we’re both wrestlers that got into MMA. I also know that he’s supposed to have a pretty good guillotine.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: What do you think will be some of your key advantages over Shane?
Benson Henderson: Even though I have more fights than he does, and more experience, I feel like people still don’t know a whole lot about me yet. I’m still relatively unknown. It is what it is. It’s not a bad thing, and it’s not really a good thing either, but I think I’ll be able to use that to my advantage. I’m sure he’s seen some fights on me, some tapes and what not, but still, for the most part I don’t think that most people know what type of fighter that I am, or that I’m going to develop into.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: Is it safe to say that you have your eyes on the lightweight belt in the WEC?
Benson Henderson: I have my eyes set on being seen as the best pound for pound fighter in the world. Right now, Jamie Varner has the lightweight title in the WEC. I consider Jamie to be a friend of mine. I’ve helped him with some of his fights and he’s helped me with some of my fights. I would rather try to stay away from that. He’s a good guy, I like him.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: Is it important that you are known as the kind of fighter that finishes his fights?
Benson Henderson: I want to end all of my fights. I don’t want to be seen as the typical wrestler that just takes someone down and just holds them, and then the ref stands them back up and he’ll just take him down again, and hold him to try to eek out a decision. I want to finish every single one of my fights. I’ve had one decision so far in all of my fights, and I was beating myself up for the next two weeks because of it. I don’t want decisions.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: I have to ask, how did you end up with the nickname, ‘Smooth’?
Benson Henderson: At my gym in Denver and then when I came out here to Arizona, all of my coaches and training partners kept pressuring me to have a nickname. I was kind of against nicknames at the time. I just figured Ben Henderson, or Benson Henderson would do. Then one day my coach told me that something I had done was really smooth when we were rolling jiu-jitsu. All of my friends and training partners started calling me smooth from that day on and it just kind of stuck.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: What does the future hold for Benson Henderson in MMA?
Benson Henderson: The reason why I’m here is to be known as the pound for pound best fighter on the planet. That’s what my sights are set on, and that’s my goal.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: Is there anyone you would like to thank?
Benson Henderson: I’d like to thank the lord up above. I’d also like to thank MTX Audio, MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona, all of my friends and family, and my mother.