Henderson looks to rescale UFC lightweight ladder
BY JOHN SILVER Staff Reporter January 23, 2014 8:47PM
Mixed martial Arts fighters Benson Henderson, left, poses for a photo with Josh Thomson during a media availability at the United Center for his upcoming UFC fight, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Chicago. The pair are slated to battle on Saturday. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
UFC ON FOX 10 at the UNITED CENTER
On TV: Main card at 8 p.m.
on Fox-32. Preliminaries
at 4 p.m. on FS1.
Main event: Lightweights, Benson Henderson vs.
Main-card fights: Heavyweights, Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Stipe Miocic; lightweights, Donald Cerrone vs. Adriano Martins; and featherweights, Darren Elkins vs. Jeremy Stephens.
Updated: February 25, 2014 6:34AM
For Benson Henderson, Saturday offers the opportunity to overcome a costly mental lapse.
On August 31 at UFC 164, Henderson lost his UFC lightweight championship when Anthony Pettis took advantage of a mental slip-up, caught him in an armbar and forced him to submit.
“I give credit to Anthony Pettis. I did make a mistake. I make mistakes in all my fights,” Henderson said. “He was good enough to capitalize on that mistake and to finish the fight. It was a mental mistake on my part and one I don’t make too often.”
A dominant force in the 155-pound division, Henderson has lost twice in the last seven years — both times to Pettis. He said the loss in August weighed on him less than the first defeat and he was looking forward to getting back into the Octagon.
Saturday he’ll face veteran Josh Thomson at “UFC on FOX 10” (8 p.m., Fox-32) at the United Center.
Despite being ranked as the No. 1 contender, a victory wouldn’t guarantee a title shot for Henderson (19-3, 7-1 UFC). And with Pettis recovering from a torn PCL, summer would be the earliest time for a rematch.
Outside of the cage, Henderson usually exhibits a laid-back nonchalance. However, when asked if it was more important to regain the title or avenge the losses to Pettis, he focused and thought about the question for a long time.
“I want to do both,” he said. “He can stay injured a year and every guy the UFC would give a title shot to, send them my way. … And then when he is healthy, then I’ll be waiting for him.”
One of those fighters is Thomson (20-5, 1 NC, 3-1 UFC). The No. 4 contender was set for a lightweight title shot in December, but after the champion went down, Henderson became his new target.
With the length of his training camp and opponent swap, Thomson has described his preparation as the worst training camp of his career. But losing a title shot hasn’t dimmed his drive.
“If you’re not motivated coming in and fighting someone who’s been the former champion for the last few years, then you’re in the wrong sport,” he said.
But on Saturday, the stakes will be high for both men.
“There’s lot of pressure on both guys,” said Brian Stann, a former UFC fighter, who will work as an analyst on Fox. “If you’re tasted the top of the mountain, like Benson has, you want to have that back. For Josh, at 35-years old, if he loses this fight, he loses the title shot and certainly it will be in the back of his head that he’ll never get one again.”