Cagewriter - Mixed Martial Arts

What do you call a guy who sits at home and reads on Friday nights, has never had a sip of alcohol, and dances to gospel music while on his way to work?

Champion.

Ben Henderson, the WEC's new interim lightweight champ, doesn't fit the mold of a hard-partying fighter. He can look back at his epic match with Donald Cerrone and see that it was not his best work.

"I know I have better cardio than that," Henderson told Cagewriter. "Not saying that it was bad. This was my first time doing the five-rounder. It was very tough, especially with all the lights, and cameras rolling, big stage, nerves, all that. But no, my performance wasn't anything near what I expected it to be. I think I can do a lot better." 

He suffered from dehydration after the fight. Looking back, he realizes that his weight cut is to blame.

"For this fight, I wanted to be a little bigger just to make sure I didn't get outmuscled. I did the bigger weight cut this time. I cut down from 173 on Tuesday morning to 155 on Friday on the night of weigh-ins. I thought I did it well, but I think afterwards, I need to do a better job rehydrating afterwards. I need to do a better job of sipping on water the next 24 hours, and get a lot of salt intake, eat more pasta, and be more careful nutritionally."

But despite the mistakes, he was confident in himself after the fight. When standing with the referee, waiting for the scores and decision to be read, he knew his hand was going to be raised.

"I thought I put in the required work. I did what I had to do; I did what was necessary. I didn't finish it the way I wanted to, but I did think I got the W and that I was going to get my hand raised."

He recently had PRK surgery on his eyes to help him with his vision, and he believes that made a difference in the fight.

"Through the course of the whole fight, I got hit maybe three times in the face while we were on our feet. My head movement, my reaction times, seeing Donald's punches coming at me. My eyesight had a huge deal to do with the fact that, 24 minutes, 40 seconds into the fight, I didn't have any marks on my face. Until the last freakin' 20 seconds, I got an upkick in the eyeball which hurt so bad. But the eye surgery definitely helped."

Henderson still has to wait to hear from the WEC and his doctors before he knows when he will fight Jamie Varner to unite the lightweight titles. But he knows he has to use his time off to improve.

"I'm still really young in the game. I've only been fighting since the fall of '06. I have a lot of improvement to do in my jiu-jitsu, my kickboxing, my wrestling, really my whole MMA game, so I'd like to have some time off to really improve my skill set. I'm not on that level where I can go from training camp to training camp. I need that time off to get better."

It was hard not to notice Henderson's excellent flexibility on Saturday. He avoided submitting when his arms were twisted in ways arms are not supposed to go.

"I've always been kind of flexible since I was really young. I enjoy stretching. On Friday nights, when everyone is out partying, I stay home with my books or pop in a DVD and I stretch. Kinda lame, but it's what I do." 

Henderson is a proud Christian, and uses his fighting to share his beliefs. He is known to quote scripture after bouts, and walks into each fight with to a gospel song.

"Through music, that's one way I like to proclaim my faith. I try not to be overly pushy, but let people know. I've always been a fan of people not talking about it, but showing it in the way they live. I don't have the best testimony, I'm not the best at converting people, but what I can do is live my life a certain way.

"I don't drink -- I've never had a sip of alcohol. I've never had a puff of a cigarette or weed or anything like that. Growing up in Tacoma, that wasn't a very popular choice. I made a decision, and whenever it came up, I passed. People have seen that. They see I don't do the club scene, I don't go to bars. By people seeing that, that affects them in a bigger way than me talking about it." 

Related Articles

Cagewriter

Add to My Yahoo RSS

Y! Sports Blog