Everyone knows Benson “Smooth” Henderson from the UFC. He is a former WEC Lightweight Champion and was also the unfortunate recipient of the kick heard ‘round the world: Anthony Pettis’ super ninja kick off the cage in WEC 53 that knocked Henderson on his back… but did you know that he’s also a competitive brown belt Jiu-Jitsu fighter.
Henderson trains Jiu-Jitsu under John Crouch at MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona. He’s been training Jiu-Jitsu for about four years. Although he does not have time to compete much in Jiu-Jitsu because of his rigorous UFC training schedule, he did take a day out of his busy schedule last weekend to compete at the 6th Arizona International Open, where he won his adult Medium Heavy division.
“I don’t compete a lot,” Henderson says, “I wish I had more time to do it, but I need to make a living with MMA. I have fun doing jiu-jitsu and I try to do good with it.” Henderson trains in all the basic MMA staples, Jiu-Jitsu with Crouch, boxing with George Garcia, and muay Thai, and he’s been a wrestler for more of his life than not. “At MMA Lab we do it all,” he says, “Our whole thing is Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Sambo, wrestling, we just say, ‘let’s do it.’ We just want to do well and have fun.”
Henderson says when he’s in the cage God is his biggest weapon. “God’s in my corner and I’m content with that,” he says. As far as his skills, it’s not his martial arts background or the other disciplines that set him apart from the rest. “Skill-wise, I work on everything,” Henderson says, “But my greatest weapon is my heart. I never give up. I will fight ‘til the end.” Henderson says when you’re a fighter of any kind, you have to open up your heart and expose yourself. “You have to put yourself out there to be judged,” he says, “All that’s a part of being a fighter I think.”
Whether Henderson is fighting on the mats or in the cage, he considers himself a very low-key, “chill” guy. “It’s why I do well in any kind of competition,” he says, “I’m relaxed. I naturally have a Jiu-Jitsu frame of mind. I adapted well to the sport.”
Henderson says he never gasses out during competitions because he doesn’t experience that over-kill adrenaline rush that many complain about. “I like to use a high school analogy,” he says, “If you’re ready for a test; if you’ve done all you could have done – you started studying three months ahead, and you’re ready for it, it’s fine. But if you didn’t study, and you know you should have, then you’re nervous as heck. For me, I look at it like I’m as physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally prepared as I can be, so I’m not nervous.”
Henderson says it’s the same with Jiu-Jitsu. “I train hard,” he says, “I know I’m ready and have trained all the positions. It’s the same with everything in life. If you’re not prepared, that’s when the nerves come in, I try to always be as prepared as possible.
That’s good advice from a man who currently holds a 12-2 record in the UFC and wants to become the best fighter on the planet pound for pound – no ifs, ands or buts about it and will work as hard as he has to, to get there. “I don’t like to lose,” he says, “I like to finish everything. I’m competitive about everything, almost to a fault. Doesn’t matter what it is – Tic Tac Toe, Chess, Jacks or Pong…whatever it is, I want to win. I really love competing. I have that competitive drive. I don’t like losing, but you should be smart enough to take something away from the experience and learn from it if you do.”
Henderson’s definitely taken something away from his last fight with Anthony Pettis. “I was completely confident and ready to go,” he says, “The fight was in Glendale and all my friends and family were there for the fight. The winner of that fight was going to fight for a belt on the Maynard / Edgar fight card. I’m known as a Jiu-Jitsu guy, so I wanted to show my boxing and kickboxing skills. I took him down, but wanted to stay standing up now. It wasn’t the best game plan. I veered away from my coach’s game plan. I wanted to show Maynard and Edgar and the media what I could do. Pettis’ stand up was just really good. It was 2-2 going to the 5th round. It is what it is. I hated to lose, but I got something out of it.”
Henderson says his long term goals are to win the Pan, the Europeans and the Worlds, “But sadly that will all have to take a back seat to my MMA,” he says.
Next up for Henderson is his April 30th UFC 129 fight with Mark Bocek. “I’ve seen him fight,” he says, “But I only watch an opponent one time, and then leave the rest up to my coach, John Crouch, to do the studying of the film. He puts together the game plan for me.”
Henderson says his strengths in this fight will be whatever he decides they will be. “One of my strengths is instilling my will,” he says, “If I want to stand up, that will be my strength. I don’t like to be concerned about my opponent, but only how I’m going to instill my will. I’m just going to show up as the same guy who’s always been in the cage and do whatever it takes to get my arm raised.”
As for the Arizona International Open, Henderson had a really good experience. “This is a great tournament,” he says, “I love coming to these smaller local tournaments. This event has grown in size a lot. It’s a testament to Gustavo (Dantas). He brings great guys, great black belts here. I always have a great time at his tournaments.”
You can follow Henderson at: JCBJJ.com and on FB and Twitter: @smoothone155.