San Jose, CA – Late into his career Bellator lightweight Benson Henderson kicks off the lightweight grand prix with a title fight against champion Usman Nurmagomedov at Bellator 292 on Friday night.
“I’ve been waiting for Bellator to finally do a lightweight grand prix. They did freaking welterweight, they did heavyweigh twice, they did light heavyweight, they’ve done a lot. But they’ve never done yet lightweight,” Henderson told reporters on Wednesday.
Henderson (30-11) had been hounding the top brass at Bellator about having a lightweight tournament for a while, and it took some time, but it’s finally arrived.
“Now it’s our turn and we get to showcase and shine for Bellator,” he said.
Now the surprise for Henderson was getting the title fight in the first round. Henderson said that Bellator contacted him about fighting Nurmagomedov without telling him it was for the grand prix.
“I was like yeah of course (I want that fight). (They) said March. Man that’s kind of far away, but of course absolutely. I heard rumors about the grand prix, and this and that, but I don’t pay attention. I don’t do my own social media too much. I didn’t listen to any of the rumors,” he said.
Henderson said his teammates and coaches had been talking about the grand prix and he wondered where his invitation was.
“Huh. Bellator’s never hit me up about their grand prix, when is it the grand prix? Am I in it? I know I get the title shot next. I’d like to get in the grand prix also. Hopefully they do the grand prix afterwards. My dumb butt didn’t connect the dots,” said Henderson.
After contacting Bellator about the grand prix Henderson finally figured it out.
“Oh hey so this grand prix is it a real thing? Are you guys doing this? Like yeah you dumb butt you’re the first fight in the grand prix. You’re getting Nurmagomedov for the first round. I was like OH! Yeah ok that makes sense, thank you,” he said.
“Thank you very much. Sorry for being an idiot.”
The matchup with Nurmagomedov is yet another tough test for Henderson whose long MMA career has matched him up with the best of the best at 155 pounds throughout many organizations. Henderson has held many titles including the WEC title and the UFC title.
“I think winning this grand prix will be pretty amazing. I have done a lot of work, the decisions i’ve made in my career going this path, winning this lightweight belt the third belt of mine, Bellator lightweight title it means everything. It means absolutely everything to me,” said Henderson.
Henderson is about to reach 40 years of age taking on a 24-year-old this late in his career one has to wonder how much longer he’ll put the gloves on for a fight.
“For me my end date is these last three fights and I’m done. I signed a 4-fight contract with Bellator, said hey after this guys I’m done, no more. Then it’s my wife’s turn Maria. Her turn to shine. She put off her career like a lot of wives do,” he said.
“My wife put of her career so that I could shine. Do what I do, and it’s worked out pretty well for us. Now it’s going to be my turn to step back and pick the kids up from school. Drop them off at soccer practice, take them to chess practice, and let her practice.”
Dad Henderson is the next job for the former WEC, UFC and hopeful Bellator lightweight champion.
“When the kids are sick, one of us has to stay home, it’s not going to be her staying home. It’s going to be me staying home. She had the four babies now it’s my turn to take care of them as she’s off at the gym training. Getting better,” he said.
Watch the entire media day scrum with Benson Henderson above. He takes on Usman Nurmagomedov in the main event at Bellator 292 in the first round of the lightweight grand prix on Friday night in San Jose, CA.