Ben Henderson, a threat in and out of the gi

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Benson “Smooth” Henderson is a brown belt who trains Jiu-Jitsu with John Crouch’s JCJJ team in Arizona and is an avid Jiu-Jitsu competitor. He is also an MMA fighter in the UFC who’ll be fighting Clay “The Carpenter” Guida on Saturday, November 12 at UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos. This fight is a big one; it could end up being a number one contender match for the UFC lightweight title against Frankie Edgar.

Ben with his JJ coach, John Crouch / Photos: Deb Blyth

However, the talk lately is that there is another player in town who could throw a wrench into that scenario. Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez, the current Strikeforce 155-pound champ is set to fight Jorge Masvidal for the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship on December 17 in San Diego. If he wins the belt, it’ll be a “wait and see” about just who’s getting that shot at Frankie.

With all this brewing, it was a surprise to see the former WEC champion at the 3rd Southwest Classic Jiu-Jitsu tournament in Arizona last weekend, but Ben just smiles. He can’t stay away from any kind of competition. A self-confessed competition addict, he will compete at anything: jacks, tic-tac-toe, ping pong… it really doesn’t matter what it is. If someone can play it and win at it, he’s in.

Ben strategizes while in Jesus's guard.

So, Ben didn’t think twice about showing up and competing in both his division and the absolute at the 3rd Southwest Classic. He won both, making him a double gold medal winner for the day. He submitted his opponent with a straight ankle lock in his first divisional match. In his two open class matches, he submitted Jesus Artesi of Siege MMA/Lotus Club with a collar choke while having him up off the ground (which brought the crowd to its feet cheering), and in the finals he submitted Andrew Gardineer also of Siege MAA/Lotus Club with another straight ankle lock.

“I love competition,” he laughs, “I wish I had more time to compete at tournaments. I love Jiu-Jitsu. I love the chess aspect of it. I love fighting for grips. I love learning all the details of it. John Crouch is the best at teaching how just a ¼ inch turn of the wrist in a certain situation can make all the difference. I love that. All the technique I use, the sub escapes I use… they are all by him.”

Ben chokes Jesus out ob his feet.

There’s always talk in Jiu-Jitsu circles that some MMA fighters’ Jiu-Jitsu is not at the same level as Jiu-Jitsu purists, but Ben has been tried and tested in this regard. His Jiu-Jitsu is legit. At the 2011 Gi Worlds he came in third in his division and showed that he can compete and hold his own against the best Jiu-Jitsu artists in the world. His Jiu-Jitsu is a threat to anyone in the cage and on the mats.

Ben recently discovered that the No-Gi Worlds are one week before his fight with Clay Guida and he couldn’t believe it. “I was like, ‘Whyyyy?’” he laughs, “I would have liked to have gone to that tournament.”

Ben at the top of the podium

As for his upcoming fight against Clay, Ben doesn’t get caught up in his own hype… or anyone else’s. He says he is looking forward to the event and understands what the results of it may mean for him. “It’s a big opportunity,” he says airily, “It’s a big chance. There will be 20 million viewers watching it on FOX!” This is coming from a guy who says he doesn’t even have cable at home. But then his competitive self surges back up and you know he’s dead serious when he looks up and says, “I’m ready to fight.”

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