Benson Henderson will defend his UFC lightweight championship for the third time on Saturday night, when “Smooth” takes on former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez in the UFC on Fox 7 main event from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
Though many regard Melendez as an especially significant opponent due to the bout’s champion-versus-champion dynamic, Henderson remains unconcerned with such recognition. Instead, the 29-year-old is solely motivated by the prospect of earning another victory.
“You guys know me. I don’t care at all about belts and all that. I will take the belt and everything, but going into any fight -- I don’t care if it’s your first fight for the UFC, your first fight on the main card or your first fight in a main event -- it doesn’t matter. You just have to win,” Henderson recently said during a media conference call. “I can’t emphasize that enough. It doesn’t matter whether belts are on the line or it’s a ‘win or go home; loser leaves the UFC’ [situation]. All of that is just extra stuff to sell fights. I don’t care. I’m going to go out there and win every single fight.”
To that end, Henderson avoids the pressure inherent in trying to prove oneself worthy of holding the UFC title. For “Smooth,” every fight is weighted equally, and losing is simply not an acceptable outcome.
“I’m not too worried about proving this or that. I just want to go out there and win every fight. It doesn’t matter,” said Henderson. “There are always going to be new and different stipulations or new and different reasons to win. I don’t really need any ulterior motives. I’m a highly self-motivated person. I go out there to win every single fight. I don’t care who the guy is or what the extra stuff on top of it is. I just want to go win, period.”
Regardless of any championship hype, Henderson must still contend with Melendez’s considerable abilities. While some have pined for a potential clash with featherweight champion Jose Aldo if and when “Scarface” decides to move up in weight, Henderson said he is in no way distracted from the task at hand.
“I’m definitely not looking past Gilbert,” said Henderson. “I know how tough Gilbert is, and I know he is the Strikeforce champ and has been in the top two or three for a long time for a reason. I’m not looking past him at all. Not even close.”