Benson Henderson captured the UFC lightweight title from Frankie Edgar in the main event of UFC 144 on Saturday night, busting up the former champion en route to a unanimous decision victory at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Though Henderson (Pictured, file photo) may now reign over arguably the toughest division in the promotion, the new champion is taking the biggest win of his career in stride.
“It’s pretty cool. I enjoy it. I’m pretty tired. I had to take a lot of photos,” Henderson told Fox Sports following his title-winning performance. “[It’s been] a journey. I want to soak it up.”
Henderson’s victory did not come easily, as the notoriously resilient champion fought tooth-and-nail for 25 minutes in an effort to retain his title. Edgar tried to set the pace in the early going, finding a home for his jab. It was in round two, however, that the bout’s momentum swung in favor of the challenger.
Following an Edgar takedown, Henderson clipped the former champion with a perfectly-timed upkick, damaging Edgar’s nose as he attempted a haymaker. While the blow staggered Edgar, Henderson believes that the tide truly turned in the next frame.
“I wouldn’t say [I had him with the upkick],” Henderson recalled. “I would say in the third round [I did]. I was pumping my jab, and he flinched.”
Edgar and Henderson continued to scrap tit-for-tat through the championship rounds, but in the end, it was Henderson who had the gold strapped around his waist.
While Henderson now rules UFC lightweights, it was not so long ago that a bevy of questions surrounded the Arizonan following his WEC 53 loss to Anthony Pettis in December 2010. Four consecutive victories and one UFC title later, Henderson appears to have answered any doubters.
“I don’t begrudge anybody their opinions. I heard a few people [say], ‘Who is this Ben Henderson guy? Who does he think he is? He’s not Top 10 in the world,’” Henderson said. “Well, that was your opinion a year and a half ago, even less than that. I’m not mad at you for your opinion, but I think your opinion might be a little off.”
What will come next for the new champion is currently unknown. While many observers are pining for a rematch with Pettis -- the man who dethroned Henderson as World Extreme Cagefighting champion -- other feel that Edgar is deserving of another shot at the belt. As for Henderson, he welcomes either challenge.
“[Fighting Pettis or Edgar], it doesn’t really matter to me. I want to defend [my title] as many times as Anderson Silva defends his, plus one,” said Henderson. “Whoever it is, I’m OK with it. There is a long list of guys: Nate [Diaz], Jim [Miller], Frankie, Anthony. Let’s do every single one of them.”