This is one of those moments where I feel compelled to just keep it completely real with the readers here at BJPENN.COM.
I was going to bump up my Dan Hardy “’ 5 O’clock Spotlight” interview to tomorrow and run this interview with former WEC lightweight champion, Benson Henderson in its place but this particular interview, as I review it, holds more of a special place in my heart so I decided to run it independently of my daily interview column and just get it out.
Everyone knows what happened in the last WEC fight to ever take place so forgive my lack of background and explanation.
The short version is the Champ, Ben Henderson, lost his title to Anthony Pettis in a fight that had Pettis cage walk “ninja kick” Ben down to the Mat.
Dubbed as the kick heard around the world and featured on multiple media outlets across the globe, the kick will forever be an MMA highlight.
With a new star born in Pettis, the seemingly unstoppable Benson Henderson faded off without word to the public as to what went wrong, how he feels and what he plans next.
That is, until now.
I was lucky enough to get the first interview with Henderson since losing his title and it is because of this, that I am “keeping it real” and instead of writing up well thought out transitions from one questions response to the next, I am just going to post the entire transcript from our discussion here for you to read.
Due to the length of our discussion will have to break this down in two parts, so this is part one please come back tomorrow for part two of this call.
Here it is word for word.
“Alright, so what I really want to talk to you about is Mark Bocek and your next fight, but to start things off would it be OK if we talk about your last fight against Anthony Pettis?”
“Oh god Yea. (laughs)
“I know it was disappointing for you to lose your title and you also lost the chance to fight for the UFC title in your debut, but walk me through that fight and where you think you went wrong and what you could have done differently.”
”First off, hats off to Anthony Pettis, dudes a tough talented kid, he is pretty young and he definitely has a long bright future ahead of him. Hopefully I have the same, but I definitely plan on seeing him again he’s a good tough fighter and I have nothing bad to say about him.
I hope he does well in the UFC, I hope I do well in the UFC and hopefully we can match up for the belt in a year or two from now.
The fight, it is what it is; I’m not real big on over analyzing or rehashing it. Like ‘Oh this went wrong and this went right or I could have done this better or that better.’ It is good to look back, I did look back with my coaches we reviewed it and we looked at what needed to be improved on and what needed to be fixed but I’m not too big on over analyzing and breaking down every little detail of the fight.
It is what it is; the main thing was not sticking to my coaches’ game plan. In all my other fights I stuck to the game plan, I did what we talked about doing this time I just did not stick to what we set out for me to do.
I did in the beginning of the fight, especially in the first round. The first round went pretty well and then the remaining rounds I didn’t stick to the game plan basically.”
“Do you have an opinion as to what might have caused you to stray from the game plan? Was it Anthony Pettis, did he confuse you and make you alter it?”
”To be honest I think it was part of the media hoopla. The chance to get a shot at the UFC title, I wanted to go into the next fight, you know, I was thinking ahead. I wanted to show Frankie Edgar and I want to show Gray Maynard. I wanted those guys thinking about me. I wanted those guys thinking about Ben Henderson and be like, ‘Oh wow his stand up is really good, he just went five rounds with a kick boxer and he did just fine’. And that’s basically what I did. I stood up four rounds with a good kick boxer and stand up guy. I stood with him for four rounds and it went to a decision and I did fine standing up.
I went away from my master game plan, so that hoopla of me wanting to showcase my hands, I want to stay standing and I want to beat the kick boxer at kickboxing made me go away from my game plan. So I think that is how I got off my game plan.
I just need to stick to being a wrestler and do what I do best. I wanted to have Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard thinking, ‘Oh man, did you see his kickboxing, did you see his boxing and bla bla’ and it just got away from me. “
“Alright man, I have a few more questions on Anthony Pettis and then we will move onto the next topic.
My next question is… I talked to one of his training partners, one of his teammates last week sometime, Pat Barry and when Pat was describing Anthony Pettis he said that he is the next stage in evolution in MMA. That this kid is so phenomenal that he is going to be the UFC Champ, he is going to stay the UFC champ and that he truly believes that he is the next step in evolution in fighting. Now, I know he is biased because that is his teammate, but I’m just wondering what you think about that statement?”
”I think he should say that, I think he is a good teammate, a good training partner slash coach who looks out for his fighter and says the right things. I say the same thing about my fighters and I say the same thing for myself.
We are all trying to get to the next stage and truly become a complete mixed martial artist and you know, to have our stand up be just as good as our wrestling just as good as our Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, just as good as our Muay Thai just as good as our boxing. I mean, yea, of course he is going to say that. He is supposed to say that, I mean of course he is going to say that. I’m not saying he is wrong or right or that he completely doesn’t know what he is talking about.
It is what it is, but yea, I think he is supposed to say that as a good friend, training partner, coach and buddy. I think he is supposed to say that, I expect him to say that. “
“I think a good question to cover and you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to. But the fact that this kids kick off the fence was replayed over and over and over again everywhere and on TV. “
“He got recognized and this guy built a name for himself just off this one kick. “
“What are your emotions what do you think about that, is that like a humbling experience? What are your thoughts on that?”
“It’s absolutely a humbling experience. It was a very humbling experience. It is what it is like I said; it is a very humbling experience for me to be on the receiving end of the kick heard around the world. But you know it’s the same thing as Anderson Silva losing by Flying Heel Hook. Georges St. Pierre losing by a vicious over hand right knockout punch to the back of the head.
Everyone has a down moment in their career, but St. Pierre didn’t let that define his career. That was a highlight reel and it’s still shown a lot now. But it wasn’t like, ‘Oh you know, I’m done fighting now and that’s what I’ll be known for, for the rest of my life. Being Knocked out by Matt Serra.’
And Anderson Silva, he got flying heel hooked and that thing was gorgeous but he didn’t stop fighting. He didn’t say ‘OK, I got flying heel hooked and I got caught on the receiving end of a big highlight reel and I’m going to stop fighting now and that’s what I’m going to be known for’.
I’m still going to finish out my career. I’m going to be on the receiving end of a bunch more highlight reels, but guess what? I’m going to be on the giving end of a bunch of highlight reels you know. I’m going to be doing my thing; I’m going to have a bunch of those myself so it’s fine. You know, it’s sucky at first; it’s a hard pill to swallow. Definitely a very hard pill to swallow but it’s not the defining moment of my career. I am not going to let that be the defining moment of my career.
You know Josh Thomson against Yves Edwards. Another one that they play repeatedly in the UFC is when Yves Edwards kicks Josh Thomson when he turns around and that’s going to be a highlight reel forever.
There’s a bunch of highlight reels. Look at all the greats in the sport, Randy Couture, he is on the receiving end of a bunch of highlight reels, Chuck Liddell, he is on the receiving end of a bunch of highlight reels but you can’t let those highlight reels, you can’t let that be the defining moment of your career.”
“That’s how I look at it for myself personally. It sucks, it’s a very hard pill to swallow you know being on ESPN. You know, how many people can say they have been on ESPN’s top 10 plays. I can say I was actually on ESPN’s top 10 plays but it was me getting kicked in the head. Not a very cool thing but you know whatever, I’ll live.”
”Alright, and just for the record, it was a very close fight. I don’t think you lost anything in that fight other than that belt. I think you could have won that fight had you stuck to a tighter game plan like you said but I think some people forget how close that fight actually really was.”
”Yea, I think all the judges had the scorecards, it was, I believe it was a unanimous decision but all the scorecards were pretty darn close. They had it, I think pretty much evened up going into the 5th round and with that kick, you know, Pettis won the 5th round and he won the fight.
But yea, all the fans I’ve talked to, all the UFC brass all the WEC brass or ex WEC brass I talked to, all the higher ups not only said what an amazing fight it was but also what a close fight it was. And as close as it was that was me standing up for four rounds.
You know I did my thing in the first round but in the last four rounds I decided to stay standing so it was a close fight and that was me as a kick boxer standing up and kickboxing. So yea, it was a good fight and from what everyone tells me, and of course no one’s going to tell me ‘Oh man you got your butt kicked you really suck’ no one’s really going to say that to you. But I do believe it from the UFC brass I mean they can tell you certain things. They aren’t going to be rude about it, but they will tell you ‘Oh man, you need to improve this and you need to work on this and blab bla bla’. I mean, of course there are things you need to work on but it wasn’t like I got my butt kicked for all five rounds.”
“I guess its bitter sweet maybe not, but you were the last fight in WEC history. That’s a historic moment you took part in. Regardless of the loss, what do you think about that? “
To be honest, it was awesome, it was very sweet. It was a very bitter sweet moment, but it was awesome to be the very last fight in WEC history. Sadly, I’ll be the answer to a bunch of trivia questions down the line but it was very bitter sweet.
The WEC was my home for a couple years, it’s where I got my initial stardom and made a name for myself with a lot of fans. They know me from the WEC. I had a lot of tough fights there; it was my home for a couple of years.
All the WEC people who were behind the scenes thankfully now they just got merged with the UFC, they are all working for the UFC so I’ll see all those people still. My relationships my connections with all those people, thankfully they are not going away.
I established a lot of connections through the WEC. The President Reed Harris an awesome, awesome man. A great life story, you know he had a dream like I do to be the UFC lightweight champ and be the best fighter in the world. He went out there and lived that dream he got the WEC started from a small casino show.
He told me some of the stories, he told me from there all the way to going into a UFC merger. Not just the UFC buying them out and making them go away but you know the UFC just didn’t buy them out and take them over. They merged with the UFC, not just having them buy out. All that stuff is amazing to me.
But definitely sad to see the WEC go, it was definitely action packed but it’s definitely a positive because now we are going to see all those action packed fights in the UFC now. “
“Obviously you saw the title fight between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard… The Draw. If you were in Anthony shoes, had you won that fight and given the opportunity to fight for the UFC belt would you be doing the same thing that he is doing and skip that chance at a belt and go for another fight or would have waited it out? And what do you think about his choice to do that?”
“I think he is a tough hungry fighter and he wants to fight. He wants to prove to the UFC fans that he isn’t just getting his title shot and he’s just not getting lucky but that he earned it and deserves it. So him taking on Clay Guida, it just shows what kind of fighter he is, it shows his heart. It shows the world he is a fighter and he’s not waiting.
It’s not wrong for fighters to decide to wait 8 or 9 months for a fight and if by all means if that’s your choice do that. But Anthony Pettis is just is saying he’s a fighter and this is what he does and he wants to prove to all this whole new base of UFC fans that never really watched the WEC what he is all about.
He took that fight and I think that’s awesome. I think that speaks volumes about the kid as a fighter.”
“Would you have done the same thing if you had the opportunity? Would you have given up your title shot to face somebody else?”
“To be honest, I couldn’t tell you. Right off the top of my head I would say yes. If Dana White asked me to take this fight instead I would say sign me up Dana I’ll do it. But it’s a hard question to answer because I’m not actually in those shoes.
It’s like saying, hey, would you walk into a burning building to save a little cat and who actually knows the answer until you’re in that position to prove yourself. But I think yea, I would probably do the same thing.
As WEC fighters we have a whole new audience that has never heard of us who haven’t seen what we are all about and it’s our job to go show them.”
Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of this special feature with Benson Henderson.