Sportinterview

UFC on FOX 10: Day and night of Benson Henderson

The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to United Center in Chicago, Ill. on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 with a battle of former champions looking to get back into the title hunt. Former UFC lightweight champion and No. 1 ranked contender Benson Henderson (19-3, fighting out of Phoenix, Ariz.) takes on the former STRIKEFORCE lightweight king and No. 4 Josh Thomson (20-5, fighting out of San Jose, Calif.) with the winner moving closer to a date with reigning champion Anthony Pettis. “Russian Chicago” got a chance to catch up with Benson a few weeks before his upcoming bout.

Benson, it is not your first time in Chicago, is it?

Yes, I have been here multiple times. I travelled, fought here once before in 2009 for WEC and have family in town.

So you are not afraid of winter, are you?

Nope. Not at all.

How did you feel after your last loss in August 2013 to Anthony Pettis and how did you find a way to recover from it?

I felt pretty sad, obviously. Recovered. And got back to the gym and started training again. That simple.

What did you learn from that defeat?

There were a few little things that went wrong that I took from watching the reply of the fight. They mostly concerned the technique, what I did wrong that fight ended the way it did, what I did allow to occur in the first place. Those were all small physical details that I allowed Anthony to use to his advantage. Now I have to make sure, they will never happen in the future. After I figured out all fight-related mistakes, my coaching stuff and I worked on the mental aspect: what to do to recover and bounce back.

What do you do different during the mental and physical preparation for the upcoming fight January 25th?

I have not really changed anything. Everything stayed the same. It was more about realizing that “losing” happens. It is part of any competition. If you are a competitor on any level, you know that at some point you are going to lose: whether you make a silly mistake, or whether it is something else, “loosing” just happens. You should be able to stay positive and push through while it is happening. There is no need to get down, no need to change things up or think that you need a new gym, new coaches, new training partners… No! Sometimes it is not the case. You lose, it happens, recover, get back in the gym, and do the same things.

Do you find any explanation, why loosing the second title (in a different promotion) to the same competitor happens in your case?

Actually, if you look at it as a whole, you can come to some sort of conclusion. First fight was a close decision. It came down to a big kick, which was a big deal… But it was a pretty close fight though. It was two to two going to the fifth round and the kick in the last round decided the outcome. Second fight: it just happens. Look at Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman first fight: you get caught, it happens. You should be able to understand it, accept it, realize it and move forward.

You have three losses in you active. Which one was the toughest to recover from?

First time I lost to Rocky Johnson in 2007. That defeat helped me to become a better fighter and take the competition more seriously. I was not really training before that; I was just going to the gym once in a while. After I lost, I realized that I don’t like loosing. I did not want to loose again and started training more seriously. It helped me to become a full time MMA fighter. The next loss was to Anthony Pettis in 2010. Then I went on a nice winning streak and became a UFC champ.

How hungry are you for the win now, after the second loss to Pettis?

As hungry as I can be for all my fights. There are always new circumstances. There is always a new situation, new this or that: either I am fighting in UFC for the first time, or I am fighting on a main card, or I am in the main event, or fighting for the belt… But for all my fights I am very hungry. And this fight is no different.

You started training MMA in 2006. How different of an MMA fighter and a person are you right now in comparison of how you have been before?

Oh, huge difference! Huge difference! Now I am a complete fighter. I am comfortable to be anywhere and be taken anywhere. Comfortable standing up, comfortable with my boxing skills, muay thai, kickboxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, have a great cage experience. Literally there is a huge difference, where I was and where I am now. Like night and day.

UFC1If I am not mistaken, your parents were the first ones who brought you to taekwondo classes, right?!

Yes. Taekwondo was the first martial art that my brother and I started practicing at the age of 10. My mother was the one who put both of us in taekwondo.

Did she, so to say, predict the path of yours?

No, not really. She just wanted us to be safe, to be able to protect ourselves and be able to have a little bit more of Korean culture in our life outside of our house. Because in our house… EVERYTHING was Korean: Korean food, Korean TV, all customs were Korean. But as soon as you leave the house, go to school or work, then everything was Americanized. So in case with taekwondo she was just trying to get us a little bit closer to Korean culture.

What is “the most Korean” right now in your life?

Food probably will be the one most significant thing. The other: once you walk in our house, the first thing you notice is Korean décor and decorations.

What do you like to do besides fighting?

I would say, reading… I am kind of boring, pretty boring person. No cool stories. No fun. Sad, but it is true.

What excites you most about fighting?

The competition. I actually don’t like fighting as it is. Fighting is cool, it is fun, but I enjoy the competition.

Would you name the three top lightweights in the world right now, in you opinion?

Myself. I guess, I have to say, Anthony Pettis and Gil (Gilbert Melendez).

Where do you rank Josh (Josh Thomson)?

Probably, right there with Gil.

Now you are busy with another event in your life. Is your wedding happening in the beginning of the year?

It is in January (newlyweds tied the knot on January 3rd). Preparation is going good. I am just knocking my head and saying “yes”. She (Marina Magana, now Marina Henderson) is just asking me, whatever it is, and all I do is saying “yes” (smiling).

Probably a lot of people bugging you with a toothpick you carry all the time in your mouth. But is there a particular brand you use?

No, no particular brand. Whatever restaurant I am leaving, I will grab one and leave it for the rest of the day. Kind of, whatever.

Is it a habit or is there any superstition behind it?

Just a habit. I am taking it out sometimes and I might not have it for days. And if anybody asks, where my toothpick is, I will be like, “I don’t have one right now”.

All right, I see. Thank you very much for your time. Good luck in the upcoming fight!

UFC on FOX 10Tickets for UFC on FOX: HENDERSON VS. THOMSON are priced at $250, $150, $100, $75, $50 and $40. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations and the United Center Box Office. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. Tickets also are available for purchase at www.ticketmaster.com.

Viktoryia Bulakhava

 

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