At times emotional, former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson addressed his retirement following Friday night’s Bellator 292 in San Jose, CA.
Henderson (30-12) was submitted by Usman Nurmagomedov in the opening round of their lightweight title fight, which doubled as a quarterfinal match-up in the Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix.
It was the third shot at gold in Bellator for Henderson, and at 39, he no doubt knew it would be his last. Now, he’ll focus on helping wife Maria prepare for her fighting career — by helping out more at home.
“I’ll be around, I’ll be in the gym. I own a gym with my coach, John Crouch and I; I’ll be helping out with the guys doing this and that,” Henderson said following the fight. “But the majority of my time will be taking care of the kids so that she can train more. I signed a deal with Bellator and I told myself ‘anytime you lose any of these four fights, that’s probably it.’ That’s what happened, so it’s time to lay the gloves down.”
“Smooth” hit the pinnacle of the sport early, winning his first major championship in his mid-20s under the WEC banner. He defended that belt twice before losing it to Anthony Pettis, a fight remembered for the infamous “Showtime Kick” — though what is oft forgotten is that the bout went to the judges.
When WEC was gobbled up by the UFC, Henderson struck gold again, working his way to a title shot and defeating Frankie Edgar in back-to-back fights to win and defend the belt. He would defend the UFC’s lightweight championship twice more, against Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez.
After moving to welterweight, Henderson signed on with Bellator MMA as a free agent in 2015, and received an immediate title shot against Andrey Koreshkov. Losing a decision, he would head back to lightweight, defeating Patricio Pitbull before entering a second title shot in the promotion against Michael Chandler.
How Henderson will be remembered is the big question following his retirement, and it’s one Henderson is happy to leave to the media and fans — though if anything, hard work is what he sees his career as coming down to.
“I’ll leave it to you pundits. I’ll leave it to you guys to give my career scope and put some cool words to it and all that stuff,” Henderson said Friday. “I’m not really sure. If anything, I would say the thing I’m highest on in this life is hard work. I don’t care what it is you do, whether you’re a journalist, whether you’re a camera man, whether you’re a fighter, it doesn’t matter what you do, whether you’re an Uber driver— it’s all about how hard you work in life. It’s all about how hard you work, hard work.”
“I think maybe for my career, I just want to be known as the guy who worked his butt off. I was never the fastest, I was never the strongest, I was never the most this, most that. I was never the number one draft pick. Not ever in my life. I was always the seventh round draft pick, but I was able to have a pretty good career, and I was able to do that by just working my butt off.”
Watch the full Bellator 292 post-fight press conference with Benson Henderson above.