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Ben Henderson interview: ‘The idea is to keep winning’

Maggie Hendricks
Cagewriter

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Ben Henderson laughed at the idea of doing a "mean fighter face" for a picture I sent out of him on Twitter after our interview. Instead, he smiled and said, "I don't have one of those." That doesn't mean he's not planning to put on a great show when he fights Jim Miller at UFC on Versus 5 in Milwaukee, but he's more likely to use his calm demeanor than intimidation as a weapon.

Miller is on a seven-bout winning streak and is part of the discussion for the next lightweight title shot, but Miller's hype doesn't affect Henderson.

"I knew he was up there for the UFC title shot. He's a tough guy. We had considered him for a possible match-up, and on hearing it was Jim, I thought, cool. Start getting ready," Henderson told Cagewriter. "Whether they're ranked no. 99 or no. 2, it doesn't really matter. You've still got to get your hand raised."

In December, he didn't have his hand raised for the first time since going pro as a fighter, losing a bout to Anthony Pettis and finding himself on the wrong end of "The Showtime Kick." He blames the loss to Pettis on getting away from his game plan.

"My lesson learned was to stick with the game plan. I went a little bit away from the game plan because of the hype, and the winner facing Frankie Edgar or Gray Maynard. I thought, 'Oh man, I want to show Frankie, I want to show Gray that I can stand up. That I can fight a national champion kickboxer standing up for all five rounds, and I can get my hand raised.' Not the best decision on my part."

He learned his lesson and rebounded  at UFC 129, winning a decision over Mark Bocek. Now, he wants to win and impress his bosses on August 14. He plans to do that by being aggressive. {YSP:MORE}

Grace under pressure

"At times, I'm lackadaisical, because I'm too relaxed. If I get in a submission, I know I'm OK. I know the ins and outs of submissions so well that I know what to do. I know that if I'm standing up, and if my opponent is coming forwards and I'm edging backwards, I know it doesn't look good to the judges, so I took that from the fight. Being the aggressor and giving the judges the visual. Not that it will win you a fight if you're getting your butt kicked, but it is good for the judges to see."

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Staying calm in submission attempts has become a hallmark of Henderson's fighting. In his epic bout with Donald Cerrone, Henderson was caught in submission attempt after submission attempt, but never came close to tapping. He knows that this frustrates opponents, which gives him a chance to win.

"The more you can stay calm under pressure, it definitely frustrates your opponents, especially if they have you in their go-to move. Like if they know they have a guillotine, and they always tap people with it, and I'm just staying calm and telling the ref I'm fine, then you get out, and the guy is frustrated. It helps me for sure."

He attributes this skill to a naturally calm nature as well as a strong knowledge of submission moves.

"I stay calm under pressure. Everyone knows jiu-jitsu, but I'm pretty versed in it. I know the moves so well that I know if I turn my head just that much, I'm OK. I know that and I don't need to freak out."

Winning over Miller could catapult Henderson to the top of rankings and get his name mentioned for a title shot, but he doesn't plan on going on a Twitter campaign or beg to get a chance at the belt.

"Whether I get a title shot after I beat Jim or not, whatever. It's cool. If I have to fight a couple more, get my hand raised a few more times before I get a title shot, cool. If I get a title shot next, cool. Good. I'll take it. I'll let my fighting speak for itself and take whoever they put in front of me."

Because no matter who he fights or where he is ranked, Henderson knows that there is one goal in MMA, and that's winning.

"Just keep getting your hand raised. Whether I win 10 in a row without a belt, or with a belt. The idea is that you keep on winning. If you lose, you're either going to lose the belt, or you'll lose and be off track to get the belt. The idea is just keep winning."

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