Former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion Benson Henderson announces retirement with no regrets

March 14, 2023
From: Spartacus

With his MMA career coming to a close, Benson Henderson has no regrets.

Following a title loss to Bellator champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at Bellator 292, the former WEC and UFC lightweight champion announced his retirement this past Friday, ending a 17-year career. Henderson kept his promise in the end. The 39-year-old pledged to hang up his gloves after his next defeat after signing a new four-fight contract with Bellator in March 2022. Now that it’s finished, he feels confident in his choice.

Henderson noted on Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour, “It’s about that time. About that time.”

“I went into the last couple of fights knowing that I was nearing the end of my career. I had much more of an appreciation for everything — for talking to the media, for doing interviews, for the walk and all that stuff. But going into the fight on Friday night, I felt pretty confident, like I was going to leave that cage with a belt around my waist. So I was happy, I was excited, finally it’s here, finally it’s my time to finally get that third belt. I promised my wife a third belt so I was going to get her third belt. So I was excited, I was happy, I was ready to go, I was in the zone. It just was not my night. Usman got me.” Henderson says.

Being one of the greatest lightweights of his time, Henderson leaves the MMA with his reputation intact. He still holds the record for the most lightweight title defences in UFC history, along with B.J. Penn, Frankie Edgar, and Khabib Nurmagomedov, with three from 2012–2013. His WEC title run includes two Fight of the Year winners for his fights with Donald Cerrone in 2009 and Anthony Pettis in 2010, and his overall 155-pound resume features victories over fighters like Cerrone (x2), Edgar (x2), Nate Diaz, Jorge Masvidal, Patricio Pitbull, Gilbert Melendez, Josh Thomson, Clay Guida, Jim Miller, and many others.

All things considered, not bad for a self-described “skinny geek” who in his youth could never have predicted the course his life took.

Henderson added. “Not at all, not even close — I pictured none of this at all. Like I was never Billy Badass, Terry Toughnuts in school. I was never like, ‘Oh, that kid’s going to be a fighter. He’s super tough. He’s really good.’ I was never the fastest, never the strongest, never the best, never the most impressive, never the Terry Tough Nuts guy walking around. I was just the skinny geek who was pretty good at wrestling who just wouldn’t stop — and then that turned into this.”

Henderson, who co-owns The MMA Lab in Phoenix with his longtime coach John Crouch, stated on Monday that the outpouring of love and support he experienced after making his choice public left him speechless.

When reflecting on his career, Henderson said he doesn’t have a favourite match or performance; rather, the experiences associated with the fights are what stick with him the most.

To that end, he will always cherish a particular night from his fighting career, which occurred around the time of the height of his UFC championship reign.

I’ll probably say Gilbert [Melendez at UFC on FOX 7], San Jose, being able to propose my wife afterward. I am a little bit more of a private person. I don’t like being out there with everything of my personal life, so being able to share a private moment, being able to share something small and special, being able to propose to my wife, being able to share it with the world, on a big stage, a couple of million people watching — that was very special to me. That’s something I’m always going to remember until the day I die.” notes Henderson.

Henderson still has plenty to do now that his fighting days are done. He has four kids to care for, ranging in age from 2 to 7, which is a full-time job in and of itself, in addition to keeping the crew at The MMA Lab operating efficiently.

He also intends to spend a significant amount of time supporting Maria Henderson, his wife, while she pursues her MMA goals. She is presently unbeaten in professional combat and will make her Bellator debut on March 31 against Mackenzie Stiller at Bellator 293.

Usman Nurmagomedov (17-0 MMA, 6-0 BMMA) defeated Henderson (30-12 MMA, 7-7 BMMA) in 2:37 to win the fight and retain his Bellator lightweight title.

Nurmagomedov submitted Henderson with a rear-naked choke in the main event of Friday’s event at SAP Center in San Jose, California, after the former UFC champion was knocked out in the first few seconds with a question mark kick.

Henderson got up after being knocked down, but he kept getting hit with additional blows. To force a submission, Nurmagomedov moved to the back. Henderson initially stood his ground, but once he moved closer to the cage, Nurmagomedov utilised his punches to get a hold of Henderson’s neck, squeeze, and force him to submit.

Henderson gave an interview to commentator John McCarthy after the bout in which he declared his retirement. Henderson, who had two fights left on his Bellator contract, recalled telling himself before agreeing to the pact that if he lost, he would give up fighting. He delivered on that promise on Friday, and now he is concentrating on his wife Maria as she sets out on her own MMA career.

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