Despite previous statements to the contrary, former UFC champ Benson Henderson won’t abandon the lightweight division after his UFC Fight Night 59 showdown with Donald Cerrone.
Henderson is one of the more physically imposing 155-pound fighters on the UFC roster. His size, strength and relentless pace make him one of the division’s top athletes, as he’s proved during a UFC stint that saw him make a three-fight run as champion.
But as “Smooth,” now 31, continues to age, the drop to the lightweight limit has become increasingly difficult. He said in September he would move to welterweight after one final bout at lightweight, but now he’s changed his tune.
Henderson wants to stick with his current weight class as long as possible. However, if the right opportunity surfaced at welterweight, he would be open to moving up.
“I like ’55; I think ’55’s my weight class,” Henderson told MMAjunkie. “If there were some good, intriguing, nice matchups at ’70, like talking about getting a title shot immediately, or ‘If you beat this guy, you get a title shot,’ I would be open to that.”
As MMA becomes more developed as a sport, more attention is focused on the dangers of weight cutting. Though he’s never officially missed weight, Henderson admits he’s starting to feel the effects, which is why he first brought up the idea of changing weight classes.
“It does get a little bit harder and harder to make weight the older I get,” Henderson said. “Getting down to ’55 is definitely not a fun process. It takes a toll on your body. All that being said, we’ll see.”
Henderson knows if he were to move up to welterweight, he would be giving up the size advantage he possesses over most opponents. Size isn’t the sole reason why he’s won nine UFC lightweight bouts, but it certainly helps.
The former UFC champ also knows competing at welterweight would mean taking significantly fewer risks. For example, at lightweight, Henderson (21-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) accepted the UFC Fight Night 59 bout with Cerrone (25-6 MMA, 13-3 UFC) on just 13 days’ notice.
Henderson and Cerrone meet in the co-main event of the Jan. 18 event at Boston’s TD Garden. The event airs on FOX Sports 1 following prelims on the same channel and UFC Fight Pass.
Even though he already owns two convincing victories over “Cowboy,” Henderson is confident in his ability to defeat anyone in the lightweight division. He would carry that same belief against the majority of welterweight opponents, but knows anything less than a full training camp would put him at a considerable disadvantage.
“At ’55 – anybody, anytime, anywhere,” Henderson said. “I’ll fight five-round fights, eight-round fights. I don’t care sign me up. ‘Cowboy’ as the opponent, that’s all the more better. Sounds good to me.
“At 170, maybe I’ve got to be a little more selective and make sure we have a full, full training camp. Can’t switch the opponent last minute and that kind of stuff. At 155, I don’t care. I was down.”