Exclusive interview with Ben Henderson

I’m going to go out on a limb and say I was the first person to coin the nickname ‘Bendo’ for Ben Henderson. Sure I may get some emails threatening my friends and family but I sincerely believe that. If anybody has evidence of the contrary, let me know. I tried going with ‘Baby Hendo’ but that was too reminiscent of one of those little Tamagotchi virtual pet keyring things. Everyone needs a little bling attached to their keys. On January 10, 2010, Ben Henderson attached a little bling to his waist in the form of the WEC lightweight belt. It wasn’t a Tamagotchi virtual pet, but it’ll do.

Early in the third round, Ben Henderson managed to pull a standing (or hanging) guillotine choke when he literally jumped Varner, threw his arm in and attempted to cut off all available oxygen in Jamie’s head. It was pretty effective and seconds later, Bendo became the undisputed WEC lightweight champion. Dude’s the #1 ranked WEC lightweight and in this interview with D**k Grayson, he shares his views on Korean BBQ, WEC, Marvel Comics and sleeping on the backseat of his car at a gas station.


What kind of kid were you growing up? What kind of kid was I? I was more of a quiet kid, comic book nerd, one of the geeky-dorky kids. Kinda along those line, you know.


When you’re out with your friends, what type of person are you? Now I have to be more outgoing, I have to be more social. I’m not the most social person. I’m perfectly okay being in the background and just hanging out. So, I get to go along with the ride. I’m never the one to say, “Oh let’s do this, let’s do that” or the one making the plans. I’m like, “Okay sure, sounds good”, enjoy the ride.


Your post fight statements frame you as religious, is there conflict because you cause physical pain upon another? Nope, there is no conflict for me. It’s the same thing as basketball or football, you cause each other physical pain, you know. A lot of sports you cause the other person physical pain but it is just a sport. True, while our sport happens to be fighting, so it’s a little more serious than just football or whatever, but guys in football get way more emotional, way more worked up, way more aggressive than a lot of MMA fighters do. Our job is to hurt somebody, but we’re not like, out to hurt ‘em. We’re just out to show our skills and do well and get a ‘W’.


What’s your favorite thing to do when not training? When I’m not training, I’m not even gonna lie, to be honest, I love to go away to Barnes & Noble, get a nice vanilla chai tea from Starbucks, grab a couple of magazines or some comic books or have a book I’m reading and just sit down and read. That’s what I do for my Friday and Saturday nights. I’m kind of a dork/a loser that way but, you know, I learn to live with it and it’s what I enjoy.


Awesome, that’s a personal favorite of mine also. Cool.


When you’re improving your skill in between fights, how do you choose which one to give priority to first? That’s a really good question, that’s really tough because a lot of fighters are different. Yea, you can’t ignore to the detriment of one skill set to improve the others. You have to work on everything, you can’t just completely forget about your wrestling and work on your boxing or kickboxing. You can’t completely work on your wrestling or your jiu-jitsu until you got your kickboxing or whatever, you have to do everything all together. It is hard, time-wise, um, finding time to work on this, to work on that, to incorporate everything, um it can be really difficult, it’s one of the harder things of being a fighter, which to concentrate on. Obviously, if you’re going into a fight, as far as training camp—if you’re going to a training camp, going into a fight—specifically going against, game planning against a specific fighter, and you know that fighter has really good jiu-jitsu and his stand up is kind of suspect, then you might wanna concentrate a little more on your stand-up. Or, vice versa, concentrate on your ground game so if you do get to that point, you’re not gonna get submitted too easily. Or, you know, concentrate on your stand-up so you’ll end up knocking the guy out a little bit before you get to the ground.


Most people think of you now as Gumby/Houdini, the escape artist. Is it cool or is it annoying since you can do more? It’s kinda cool, I don’t think it’s annoying at all. I like it, I dig it. Hopefully, it gets to the point where they’re like, “Oh, Henderson is so freakin’ Gumby-ish and flexible that he can’t be submitted” and then no one will ever go for submissions on me, haha, that would be awesome. I would love that. But sadly, I don’t think that’s the case you know. But, yea, if people are fixated on my submission defense and they forget about my wrestling or forget about my hands and forget about my kicks, hey, that is fine by me. Forget about everything; think I’m just a defensive guy who can’t be submitted and that’s all I do, sure, go ahead.


Is the WEC lightweight division deep enough for you or do you think you need a bigger pond? That’s another interesting question; I like how you phrase that too. Um, I want to be the best fighter on the planet period. Pound-for-pound; no if ands or buts. No ‘arguably one of the best guys ever to fight’. I wanna be the best guy on the planet, period. And to be that guy, to be the best, you have to beat the best. So I wanna beat all the best guys on the planet. You know, whoever they are, wherever they’re at. The top 10 fighters on the planet, you know, I wanna beat all of them, I wanna face ‘em, beaten ‘em, and ended those fights. I don’t wanna win decisions against them, I wanna end those fights. So wherever that may take me, where I have to go to do or whatever the case may be to be the best on the planet, that’s my ultimate goal.


BJ Penn v. Frankie Edgar? I’m gonna go with BJ Penn on that one. He is arguably the best fighter on the planet pound-for-pound. He is the man. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. For me personally, I think he is the best fighter on the planet. So I’m going with BJ on that one. No disrespect or whatsoever to Frankie. But yea, I think BJ at ’55 is pretty much undefeatable.


Herschel Walker v. Greg Nagy? That’s an interesting one also. I think Herschel Walker, he’s such a great athlete. Even in his more mature age, I think he’s still such a good athlete, it’d be hard to go against him. A lot of times, just being such a superior athlete gives you such an upper hand that you can get the job done. But then again, I don’t know. I’ll go with Herschel Walker just because he’s a good athlete. And he seems, I never met him personally, but he seems to be a good guy, has his heart in the right place. Yea, I’ll root for him.


Name a fighter that impresses you? One fighter that really impresses me, uh, I’d have to go with BJ again. BJ for his skills and for his athleticism and for his desire and all that. I really like Fedor because I think he’s arguably one of the best fighters on the planet. And I love his unflappableness, his stoic, his blah attitude in the ring, I love that.


If you were to corner Uriah Faber in his fight against Jose Aldo, what would you tell Uriah? Eeeesh. Uriah Faber against Jose Aldo, what would I tell Uriah Faber? I would tell him to watch out for any explosions. Be prepared for Aldo to be explosive going forward. Um, and then if you can hold him up against the cage and stifle his explosiveness, that’s where he’s really dangerous. Keep him up against the cage to slow him down a little bit, wear him down, wear him down. Then see how he is, cause none of us has ever seen Aldo go into like the 5th round or so and see how he reacts to being taken into deep water.


Word on the grapevine is that BJ is virtually excellent in all aspects of MMA, after training with him, which martial art aspect seemed more impressive than the rest? By far and away, BJ’s jiu-jitsu. We all know he’s a world class jiu-jitsu guy, he’s been a black belt for like 15 years or something like that, for an incredibly long time. But, I don’t know if you’ve rolled jiu-jitsu, but when you’re a white belt and you first start rolling jiu-jitsu, the first time you roll, like actually roll live, you slap hands, you start on your knee and then, “Okay, what do I do now? What do you want me to do?” Then you kinda have to—you don’t know what you’re supposed to do, you’re just in an awkward situation, “I don’t know what you want me to do?”, um, okay, you’re just kind of confused. That’s how I was, I’m not that good, I’m decent overall, I’m a three stripe purple belt. But rolling with BJ, I have that white belt feeling, not because he overwhelmed me with the aura of BJ Penn, I don’t get too awestruck by all that, black belts or whoever, I can roll pretty decent you know. I don’t get shooken up the name of the person. But BJ skill-wise, um, positional-wise, I couldn’t get anything against him, I didn’t know where to start where to begin. I felt like a white belt cause he didn’t leave any openings. There’s no chance for me at all. I’ll maybe go for this or I’ll think about going for this or this is open or it was open for half a second but now it’s gone. No openings period. There was nothing I could do, everything was securely shutdown and his position was just awesome the entire time. I was blown away.


Name another camp you’d like to train with other than your own? To be honest, our camp isn’t really too big into the cross-training—having them cross train so much at different gyms. We feel that to be good, you don’t have to go to other gyms. It’s okay to train strictly in-house. You can be good by working with younger fighters, up n’ comers you know, give you a hard time, in that you make them better they make you better. Then you constantly have to improve and get better. Our camp, we’re not too big into cross training. Obviously, if BJ Penn invites you to his camp you better say yes, I jumped at the chance. Kenny Florian, same thing. In the UFC, you know, BJ Penn is all-world, probably put him by himself. Number 2 is Kenny Florian and then the UFC 155 weight class everybody else is below that. BJ, Kenny then everybody else. So, when one of those two guys asks me to join their camps, I jumped at the chance I said yes, of course. But other than those two guys, I’m not really too sure if there’s any other camps outside. I don’t know if there are any other camps that I would jump at a chance or I would really want to go over there in any other camps.


Do you agree with the current scoring system? Any recommendations? I think that the MMA scoring system, I think is good now. I’m not really against it or anything like that. I just think that it needs to be ordered a little bit more succinctly. Because every judge, every referee, they have their own opinion on—there’s no set—okay if Fighter A holds down Fighter B in this position for this long then he’s scoring this many points. For fights now, the one judge, in the exact same fight, it happens all the time, Judge #1 and Judge #2 can see the same thing, but they score it differently in their head because one judge will score more for submission attempts while the other judge scores more for submission defense. Or, one judge will score more for a takedown, or the other judge will score more for the escape. So it all kind of depends on um—I think the scoring is fine, the 10-9, 10-8, 10-point scoring system, that’s actually okay. But it’s on how scoring/judging submission attempts, ground n’ pound, ring control, all those sorts of things. There’s a lot of room for human judgment. A lot of room for—not error, I don’t want to use the term error, but there’s another term for it—judges to look at. One judge see’s a 10-8 round and one judge sees a 10-9 round or something of that sort.


Should the Heavyweight division be split in two? Um, no. I think that’s one of the cool things about the weight class is the big jump in weight class, in guys’ sizes. It’s kinda a cool thing and its part of life. That’s just the way it is. Sometimes if you’re bigger, you have an advantage because you’re bigger and stronger and all that stuff. Sometimes you’re smaller; sometimes you have an advantage because you’re smaller, quicker, and faster so it all depends I think. But I’m fine with the way it is now.


Eventually, should MMA be a monopoly (e.g. NBA, NFL) or capitalistic (i.e. current situation w/ multiple MMA promotions)? That’s a question I kinda go back and forth on quite a bit, I’m really not quite sure. I think, free-market system and all that stuff; um, you know, variety is the spice of life and all that. More options gives the fighters, it gives the fans, gives the media more choices in which to watch and enjoy and show support of and all that stuff. But the thing about it, if they were to do that—I don’t know, that’s a very iffy touchy subject, I’m not quite sure to be honest. I will say this, I am for competition. Competition in the UFC is a good thing, having guys who can challenge BJ Penn, guys that can challenge St. Pierre. If you have guys who just dominate the weight class like Anderson Silva or BJ Penn then it gets a little bit boring and fans are like, “Oh, maybe he should go up a weight class and get some more competition”. I think competition is always good, competition is uh—it makes people better, it makes organizations better, it makes the great business in the world, competition is what drives them and makes you have to be there, so you have competitors who are on your back making you better otherwise they will pass you up.


Do you have health insurance? I right now do not have insurance. I am not covered and I am looking to fix that right away.


Do you follow Women’s MMA? Yes I do.


Name an impressive up & comer? I’m not quite sure if I know her name exactly but she fights out of Oregon, oh not Oregon, she fights here, out of here, Washington; Victory Alliance or Victory “something”. I don’t know her name. She was supposed to try out for Strikeforce a couple of times, it didn’t go through. I don’t know her name exactly. But the standard staple for Women’s MMA right now would have to be Gina Carano. I think she’s pretty darn impressive.


Cyborg v. Coenen? I think Cyborg is a tough, tough fight. If anyone is gonna beat her is gonna have to be at the top of their game.


What does women’s MMA have to do in order to continue its mainstream progress? I think women’s MMA just needs more supporters. Pretty much a lot of women’s sports, they just need a lot more people to actually watch. If there aren’t people watching, they don’t know about it. Have promoters need to throw more money behind it to get out there, to allow people to watch to—“Oh wow, this is actually pretty impressive, these girls can throw down for real.” And when people see the product, I think then they’ll be converts. Cause if they never see the product, they can’t jump on the bandwagon.


Should women have universal 5 min rounds? Five. Five minute rounds.


Name a talent other than fighting? I can eat like it’s nobody’s business.


Hahaha, excuse me? I can eat, like it’s nobody’s business. I can eat pretty darn—you can be surprised to see how much food I can put away in this little body of mine.


Nerdiest thing you’re into? Probably say comic books. Comic books, regular sci-fi fantasy novels. I’m a big reader.


Regarding your preference, why Marvel over DC? Oh, Marvel is ten times better c’mon. The story lines, the characters, there’s no generic—like in DC all the characters are kind of generic. I don’t know, Marvel is better, the following is better, the story lines, the characters, the crossover appeal, in general, and the history of Marvel altogether. DC has one or two, basically it’s just the big two and that’s it, and everyone relies on those two bigger stars.


I started off on Marvel but crossed over to DC. Big Robin fan. You also like Smallville, correct? I do, I am a big fan of Smallville as ironic as that is.


I know, since you like Marvel. To me, I think the season started to suck after Lex Luthor (Michael Rosenbaum) and Lana (Kristin Kreuk) left, what are your thoughts on the show now, would you change anything? I would agree with you. After the two original writers, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar perhaps, I forgot their names, after those two guys left—I don’t wanna say the show hit a rough patch, but they did hit a patch where they weren’t as engaging in the plot lines and whatnot. But then again I have enjoyed the plot lines so far with the new writers. But no, um, I don’t actually watch the season on TV, I wait until after it comes out on DVD and then I watch the entire whole series and kinda just zone out on that, that’s kinda what I do.


You have Korean ancestry. Korean Barbecue v. American Barbecue? Hands down, without a doubt, no comparison, Korean barbeque.


You have something in common with our site president, you both had 2 majors and both ended in a profession unrelated to your formal education. Not sure if he’ll be a theological psychologist (Theology & Psychology) anytime soon, but will you ever be a cop (Criminal Justice & Sociology) down the road? Maybe, there’s a chance of that. Actually [in the past], I was looking forward to um—not looking forward but, giving thought—I’m not fighting for that much longer, maybe till I was 31 or 32. Hopefully, I’ll already reach into the top as the best fighter on the planet, best fighter at 155 in the history of the lightweight class; but yea, I was giving thought to joining the military afterwards. I’ve always had an inkling towards joining the military so.


Now you and me have something in common, we both slept in cars while at a gas station. Did you sleep in the back seat or recline the driver’s seat? Actually my backseat was—I packed up and moved from Nebraska down to Denver, it was like 3:30 in the morning. I didn’t get into Denver till like 4 or so in the morning. Um, I had all my—I threw as much as I could into my car, I packed it all the way up to the top. So my backseat was full, I couldn’t even recline my chair all the way, I had probably another inch or so and I fell asleep like that. It wasn’t a very goodnight’s sleep.


Fly, Breath Underwater, or Telekinesis? Choose one. That all depends, because if you could fly, are you also given the ability to withstand, you know, at like which speed can I fly? Can I withstand the wind temperature at such a high elevation? Can I breathe thin air? If I can breathe underwater, can my body take the depth pressure of diving deep down? It all kind of depends on what I’m allowed to do. Um, telekinesis would be a cool one because there’s not too many physical limitations with that power.


You know what? I don’t even care about not having an answer. That was just a cool explanation, you don’t even need to pick one. Now, F/Marry/Cliff: Wonder Woman, Storm, and She-Hulk? I would have an affair with She-Hulk, marry Storm, and throw Wonder Woman off a cliff.


That’s the conclusion, anything you wanna say? Um, yea, I always wanna thank the lord God above his most high. He’s blessed me every day of my entire life. I always wanna thank his name. Not only after a big fight, after winning a world title, but each and every day. That’s pretty important to me. I wanna thank all my management, everybody, all the guys, my friends and family at my gym, the MMA Lab. My fiancé Katherine, she puts up with a lot, if I become emotional, you know, I’m not in the best mood at all times and she puts up with a lot. My mom, my brother, all my family, uh, John Crouch, Jason Beck, just uh, there’s a ton of people I gotta thank.
Published on January 15, 2010 at 9:16 am
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