Benson Henderson isn’t one of those guys who plans on hanging around mixed martial arts into his 40s – or even his late 30s, for that matter.
The former UFC lightweight champion turns 34 in November, and he recognizes that he has reached the tail end of his prime years. Henderson, who faces Patricky Freire in the Bellator 183 headliner on Sept. 23, wants to make the most of the time he has left.
“I don’t have too many more fights left in my body. I can fight for a certain period, and I want to get as many fights as I can in that timeframe,” Henderson told Sherdog.com. “I want to have four, five, six more fights in the next year. I want to get in; I want to get out. Because I’m not in my prime for that much longer, it’s in my head. So I want to make my time as worth it as possible.
“I want to get there and have as many more fights as I can get. That’s big fights at 170 [pounds] here, short-notice 170 here, fight for the title at 155. No problem. I’ll do all of it. I’m fully intending on working my ass off so if those opportunities present themselves, I shine.”
The MMA Lab standout has backed off a previous claim that he would call it quits before his 34th birthday.
“I have been on the record saying I want to retire before the age of 34. I turned 34 in November and I will not be retiring before then,” he said. “I do know I have a shorter period of time. I’m not going to be fighting til I’m 40. I won’t be fighting til I’m 39. I only have a limited amount of time left. I want to make that time as action-packed as possible.”
“Smooth” should get off to a good start toward that goal in his matchup with Freire at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. The elder “Pitbull” brother is known for his highlight reel KO power, as evidenced in recent finishes of Josh Thomson and Ryan Couture. Henderson already owns a victory over reigning featherweight king Patricio Freire and might have gained some insight by facing Patricky’s younger brother.
“I think they’re pretty similar skill set wise. They’re pretty similar in the combinations they throw and the counters they like to throw,” Henderson said. “I think [Patricio] might be a little faster, quicker, a little more on his toes. I think the older one might have a little more power in his hands. He might sit there and wait a little bit longer and be a little more flat footed.”
Henderson was one of Bellator’s first big free-agent additions, and the California-based promotion has only continued to bolster its roster with recognizable names since his signing. However, Henderson’s career hasn’t necessarily gone as planned. He was beaten soundly by Andrey Koreshkov in a welterweight title bout, defeated Patricio Freire due to injury and dropped a split verdict against Michael Chandler for the lightweight crown.
It’s worth noting that Henderson was not 100 percent for the beginning of his Bellator tenure. He spent the first part of 2017 recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL, MCL and some other issues in his knee. Nonetheless, Henderson fought through the injury and still believes things turned out for the best.
“I think things would have been different for sure had I been 100 percent healthy going into my Bellator career,” he admitted. “But who’s to say how it would have been different? Who knows? Maybe I would have over extended on a couple of shots and ended up taking a nasty knee from Andrey……Maybe the knee thing was the best route for me as opposed to something else happening, something else going wrong.
“Do I think things would have been different? For sure…..[But] everything always works out for the best in the long run. You play the cards you’re dealt and I was dealt a torn ACL in Bellator. I would have done it all over again the exact same because it’s the way it’s supposed to work out.”