Locally based MMA star Benson Henderson seeks path to a third career championship

·3 min read

Benson "Smooth" Henderson and Ryan Bader don't just share a fight night card at Bellator 273 on Saturday night at Footprint Center. They both are coming off of losses the last time they fought at the home of the Phoenix Suns, in October 2021, they both have come to call the Phoenix area home after moving to Arizona from elsewhere, and they both have had long and very successful careers in the fight game, each at 38 years old.

But unlike the heavyweight champion Bader, Henderson is in search of a Bellator title that he hasn't been able to capture since joining the promotion in 2016. He's been a champion in UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting, and in the advanced stages of his career, is looking to get a Bellator lightweight championship bout as soon as possible.

Henderson said his wife asked him several years ago to win a third championship belt, and he's been going after it ever since. A big step toward that goal would be a win over Islam Mamedov in the co-main event Saturday.

Mamedov is unbeaten in his last 20 fights. Henderson (28-11) has lost three straight fights.

"I need, I have to have the Bellator belt around my waist, otherwise, things just don't make sense. The world is not right, the world does not make sense to me," Henderson said. "I'm not going to stop until I get the belt around my waist. I will keep going, keep going, keep going until the wheels fall off."

Henderson was fast-tracked to a fight against Mamedov, and he's thankful for the opportunity. On Saturday at the ceremonial weigh-in in downtown Phoenix, his faceoff with Mamedov was unlike the cold stares and near nose-to-nose confrontations between most opponents.

Henderson and Mamedov shook hands, wishing each other well. But business is business, and being cordial ends in the cage.

"If beating Islam gets me right back up there into title contention, title talk again, awesome," Henderson said. "No one else wanted to fight him. Everyone is refusing to fight this guy. I know I wanted to fight Islam because of his tough wrestling background. So I said 'I'm your guy. I'm your huckleberry. Sign me up.'"

Fifteen-plus years in the sport has given Henderson, who grew up in the Seattle-Tacoma area, a good deal of perspective. He said he's learned that it takes a strong team behind him to have a long career like his, and on the physical side, proper warming up and cooling down with stretching before and after a workout "will help add years to your career."

Henderson said he keeps wanting to get better, as both a competitor and a husband and father.

"The desire to be the best, the desire to get my hand raised, that is paramount to me, that's in everything I do," Henderson said. "So it's not just for my career that I have that mindset, but it's in all my life. I want to be a better husband each and every single day. That's hard! That's tough!"

Henderson was a little surprised that Phoenix got another Bellator event just a few months after Bellator 268 took place at Footprint Center. He lost by unanimous decision that night.

"I'm currently happy and incredibly thankful to be fighting in my adopted hometown, not just logistics wise, but I honestly enjoy, love having my family, my friends, my fans be able to come out and support and look up in the crowd and see 10, 15, 20 people who I know," Henderson said. "I won't be doing this too much longer, so getting fights here in Phoenix, it definitely means a lot to me."

Get in touch with Jose Romero at Jose.Romero@gannett.com. Find him on Twitter at @RomeroJoseM.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Bellator veteran Benson Henderson needs win for MMA title shot

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting