Benson Henderson will defend his lightweight title against Anthony Pettis… (UFC / YouTube )
Benson Henderson was on the other end of Anthony Pettis’ ninja super kick nearly three years ago, but the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champion has moved on impressively.
With seven consecutive victories since that loss by decision, including three successful title defenses, Henderson (19-2) on Saturday night confronts Pettis (16-2) again in the main event of pay-per-view UFC 164 in Milwaukee.
“He’s a pretty confident guy, but I’m a highly confident fighter myself in having the belt, defending the belt again and again. I know it’s going to be a hard, tough fight -- not an easy fight, there’s no easy fights for me -- but I believe in myself.”
Henderson has twice defeated Frankie Edgar, then dominated Nate Diaz before venturing to San Jose, home of former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, to win by split-decision in April.
Now, he goes to Pettis’ hometown trying to smudge out the lasting memory of their past conflict -- the stunning kick to Henderson’s head that Pettis landed with his right foot after leaping with his left foot on the World Extreme Cagefighting fencing to soar while delivering the blast.
“I think I’ve gotten better everywhere, not just one area,” Henderson said. “If you don’t, and guys find your weakness, you lose. The belt shows I don’t have any weaknesses.”
Henderson thought it important to point out that he has had nowhere the training in mixed martial arts than others he’s usually pitted against.
“I know how good I can be and I’m not there yet,” he said. “I haven’t hit my ceiling or my peak yet. I know I can be a lot better. Take a look at when GSP [Georges St-Pierre], Frankie Edgar, Nate Diaz started fighting professionally ... it’s when I was still in college.
“I had no dreams or aspirations of even being a fighter. These guys have a lot more experience, a lot more time in the sport than I do. I’ve been doing the sport for four years. Some guys have been in it four or five years longer, with 30,000 hours of practice compared to my 15,000 hours. I have that time to make up, in my boxing, muay thai, kickboxing, taekwondo, jiujitsu, wrestling.
“Wait until I have my 30,000 hours of boxing. I’m not bad now. Give me another two years, and I’ll blow your guys’ minds.”
The rematch with Pettis is a compelling test of his progression, and victory could set up a UFC super-fight against featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
He chafed at being told UFC President Dana White dismissed Henderson’s push at landing a fight against welterweight champion St-Pierre because St-Pierre generates the sport’s richest purses.
“I don’t fight for money, I don’t need pay-per-view points, you’ve seen them put my fights on Fox,” Henderson said.
“I’ve left money on the table. It doesn’t matter to me, I want to be ... clear on that point. I want to fight the best guys on the planet.”