Tomorrow night will mark the biggest of UFC lightweight Benson Henderson’s career. After impressing all with a trio of victories inside the Octagon after debuting last April including those over top contenders Jim Miller and Clay Guida, the 28-year old finds himself on the cusp of greatness with a chance to win 155-pound champion Frankie Edgar’s title in a headlining bout.
If fighting for the title wasn’t enough, Henderson and Edgar will also be competing in the main event of the UFC’s return trip to Japan. Since Zuffa acquired PRIDE the sport hasn’t enjoyed all that much success in the Land of the Rising Sun. DREAM has failed to show any consistency and Sengoku has recently closed its doors. Japanese fans have been clamoring for a big show and both Edgar and Henderson will be counted on to come up big when they meet in February.
However, it’s a challenge “Bendo” welcomes with open arms as he made clear in a conversation with Fighters.com.
“I’m super excited that the UFC has given me the honor of fighting in the main event of their return to Japan,” said an eager Henderson who was not trying to hide the pride in his voice what so ever. “This is like the UFC’s first trip to Japan because they haven’t been there since Zuffa took over the organization.
“It’s been a long time since the UFC has been there and we expect fans from all over the world to be attending this show,” he continued. “This truly going to be a global event and I’m excited to be part of it. I get a thrill about being in the main event over the bigger weight guys because that spot is usually reserved for them. It’s a big deal for us little guys and that’s something I take great pride in.”
Japanese fans have long been known to be more reserved than their American counterparts. While the fans in North America can be rabid, loud and blood thirsty, the Japanese fans tend to be quiet and reserved. That’s not to say they are any less in love with the sport. As a matter of fact they showed the UFC fighters tremendous love when they were over their promoting this card in November.
“I got a pretty good welcoming from the fans and media when we were over there,” the 14-2 Henderson said. “We have a great card scheduled and while MMA may have been on the decline over there it seems to be getting back on track. This card has sparked a rebirth over there and after this I think we’ll see a lot of young Japanese fighters begin to get involved with the sport. I would consider it an honor to be part of something that helped MMA bounce back in Japan.”
While he was over in Japan, Henderson had an opportunity to travel over to Korea to meet relatives from his mother’s side of the family. He also had a chance to train at Korean Top Team with “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. These experiences are something Henderson will never forget and has opened up a whole new plethora of family members to him.
“It was so cool, the first couple of days I went and visited a couple of Army Bases,” said a still-glowing Henderson. “We had Thanksgiving dinner with the troops and they were really awesome. We got to roll around with some of the soldiers and their instructors.
“After that we had two or three days to ourselves and I got to meet my mom’s side of the family. There were so many cousins who I had never met before and I was super stoked about meeting them all. My mom has six aunts and uncles and they all have children. It was really cool meeting so many new family members.”
He’ll even have a few of them in attendance come tomorrow night at UFC 144 when he faces Edgar.
“My mom’s uncle will be traveling from Korea to Japan to watch me fight,” Henderson explained. “That has me really excited. They have become so supportive of me and are really big fans. Some of my family from the states will be traveling to watch me fight as well. The amount of support I will have will be truly amazing.”
Henderson has a lot of tools that have helped him become so successful in his sort time in mixed martial arts. He has solid wrestling, very good submission defense and a diverse striking attack that has a Muay Thai base. Edgar is quick, has good boxing and is as tough as they come. It’ll be interesting to see what areas Henderson holds an edge over Edgar and vice versa.
“I think I match up with him pretty well with him in every area,” said the self-assured scrapper. “As I said I’m as confident as any fighter on this planet. He is known for having great cardio, a great chin and recovers very quickly. I believe my cardio is second to none, my chin is good and has been tested quite a few times and I’ve done just fine.”
“My MMA wrestling is second to nobody’s in the UFC, my ground game; my Jiu-Jitsu is also second to none,” concluded Henderson on Edgar before giving him the edge in one discipline. “An area of weakness may be my boxing, his boxing may be a little bit better than mine and he may try and exploit that. My Muay Thai has really grown and cone along very nicely. Besides the boxing, I think I match up very well with him.”
The headliner between Henderson-Edgar takes place as part of a stacked seven-fight PPV card starting at 10:00 PM EST. Other bouts include Anthony Pettis-Joe Lauzon, Yoshihiro Akiyama-Jake Shields, and Quinton Jackson-Ryan Bader.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC