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Interview with Ben Henderson
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. Iím not the most social person. Iím perfectly okay being in the background and just hanging out. So, I get to go along with the ride. Iím never the one to say, ďOh letís do this, letís do thatĒ or the one making the plans. Iím like, ďOkay sure, sounds goodĒ, 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. Itís 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 itís 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 weíre not like, out to hurt Ďem. Weíre just out to show our skills and do well and get a ĎWí.
What's your favorite thing to do when not training?
When Iím not training, Iím 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 Iím reading and just sit down and read. Thatís what I do for my Friday and Saturday nights. Iím kind of a dork/a loser that way but, you know, I learn to live with it and itís what I enjoy.
Awesome, thatís a personal favorite of mine also.
When youíre improving your skill in between fights, how do you choose which one to give priority to first?
Thatís a really good question, thatís really tough because a lot of fighters are different. Yea, you canít ignore to the detriment of one skill set to improve the others. You have to work on everything, you canít just completely forget about your wrestling and work on your boxing or kickboxing. You canít 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, itís one of the harder things of being a fighter, which to concentrate on. Obviously, if youíre going into a fight, as far as training campóif youíre going to a training camp, going into a fightóspecifically 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, youíre not gonna get submitted too easily. Or, you know, concentrate on your stand-up so youíll 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?
Itís kinda cool, I donít think itís annoying at all. I like it, I dig it. Hopefully, it gets to the point where theyíre like, ďOh, Henderson is so freakiní Gumby-ish and flexible that he canít be submittedĒ and then no one will ever go for submissions on me, haha, that would be awesome. I would love that. But sadly, I donít think thatís 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 Iím just a defensive guy who canít be submitted and thatís all I do, sure, go ahead.
Is the WEC lightweight division deep enough for you or do you think you need a bigger pond?
Thatís 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 Ďarguably one of the best guys ever to fightí. 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 theyíre at. The top 10 fighters on the planet, you know, I wanna beat all of them, I wanna face Ďem, beaten Ďem, and ended those fights. I donít 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, thatís my ultimate goal.
BJ Penn v. Frankie Edgar?
Iím 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 Iím going with BJ on that one. No disrespect or whatsoever to Frankie. But yea, I think BJ at í55 is pretty much undefeatable.
Herschel Walker v. Greg Nagy?
Thatís an interesting one also. I think Herschel Walker, heís such a great athlete. Even in his more mature age, I think heís still such a good athlete, itíd 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 donít know. Iíll go with Herschel Walker just because heís 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, Iíll root for him.
Name a fighter that impresses you?
One fighter that really impresses me, uh, Iíd 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 heís 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, thatís where heís 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, BJís jiu-jitsu. We all know heís a world class jiu-jitsu guy, heís been a black belt for like 15 years or something like that, for an incredibly long time. But, I donít know if youíve rolled jiu-jitsu, but when youíre 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, ďOkay, what do I do now? What do you want me to do?Ē Then you kinda have toóyou donít know what youíre supposed to do, youíre just in an awkward situation, ďI donít know what you want me to do?Ē, um, okay, youíre just kind of confused. Thatís how I was, Iím not that good, Iím decent overall, Iím 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 donít get too awestruck by all that, black belts or whoever, I can roll pretty decent you know. I donít get shooken up the name of the person. But BJ skill-wise, um, positional-wise, I couldnít get anything against him, I didnít know where to start where to begin. I felt like a white belt cause he didnít leave any openings. Thereís no chance for me at all. Iíll maybe go for this or Iíll think about going for this or this is open or it was open for half a second but now itís 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 isnít really too big into the cross-trainingóhaving them cross train so much at different gyms. We feel that to be good, you donít have to go to other gyms. Itís okay to train strictly in-house. You can be good by working with younger fighters, up ní 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, weíre 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, Iím not really too sure if thereís any other camps outside. I donít 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. Iím 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 onóthereís no setóokay if Fighter A holds down Fighter B in this position for this long then heís 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 umóI think the scoring is fine, the 10-9, 10-8, 10-point scoring system, thatís actually okay. But itís on how scoring/judging submission attempts, ground ní pound, ring control, all those sorts of things. Thereís a lot of room for human judgment. A lot of room forónot error, I donít want to use the term error, but thereís another term for itójudges to look at. One judge seeís 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 thatís one of the cool things about the weight class is the big jump in weight class, in guysí sizes. Itís kinda a cool thing and its part of life. Thatís just the way it is. Sometimes if youíre bigger, you have an advantage because youíre bigger and stronger and all that stuff. Sometimes youíre smaller; sometimes you have an advantage because youíre smaller, quicker, and faster so it all depends I think. But Iím 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)?
Thatís a question I kinda go back and forth on quite a bit, Iím 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 thatóI donít know, thatís a very iffy touchy subject, Iím 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, ďOh, maybe he should go up a weight class and get some more competitionĒ. I think competition is always good, competition is uhóit 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 Womenís MMA?
Yes I do.
Name an impressive up & comer?
Iím 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 ďsomethingĒ. I donít know her name. She was supposed to try out for Strikeforce a couple of times, it didnít go through. I donít know her name exactly. But the standard staple for Womenís MMA right now would have to be Gina Carano. I think sheís 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 womenís MMA just needs more supporters. Pretty much a lot of womenís sports, they just need a lot more people to actually watch. If there arenít people watching, they donít know about it. Have promoters need to throw more money behind it to get out there, to allow people to watch toóďOh wow, this is actually pretty impressive, these girls can throw down for real.Ē And when people see the product, I think then theyíll be converts. Cause if they never see the product, they canít 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 itís nobodyís business.
Hahaha, excuse me?
I can eat, like itís nobodyís business. I can eat pretty darnóyou 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. Iím a big reader.
Regarding your preference, why Marvel over DC?
Oh, Marvel is ten times better címon. The story lines, the characters, thereís no genericólike in DC all the characters are kind of generic. I donít 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 itís just the big two and thatís 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 leftóI donít wanna say the show hit a rough patch, but they did hit a patch where they werenít 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 donít 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, thatís 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 heíll be a theological psychologist (Theology & Psychology) anytime soon, but will you ever be a cop (Criminal Justice & Sociology) down the road?
Maybe, thereís a chance of that. Actually [in the past], I was looking forward to umónot looking forward but, giving thoughtóIím not fighting for that much longer, maybe till I was 31 or 32. Hopefully, Iíll 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. Iíve 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 driverís seat?
Actually my backseat wasóI packed up and moved from Nebraska down to Denver, it was like 3:30 in the morning. I didnít get into Denver till like 4 or so in the morning. Um, I had all myóI 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 couldnít even recline my chair all the way, I had probably another inch or so and I fell asleep like that. It wasnít a very goodnightís 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 Iím allowed to do. Um, telekinesis would be a cool one because thereís not too many physical limitations with that power.
You know what? I donít even care about not having an answer. That was just a cool explanation, you donít 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.
Thatís the conclusion, anything you wanna say?
Um, yea, I always wanna thank the lord God above his most high. Heís 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. Thatís 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 fiancť Katherine, she puts up with a lot, if I become emotional, you know, Iím 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, thereís a ton of people I gotta thank.
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