Benson Henderson has been fighting in mixed martial arts (MMA) professionally for 16 years, so “Smooth” knows his time for fighting inside the cage is winding down. In fact, he already has his timeline set, saying that he plans to call it a career after three more fights.
When he does retire, it won’t be because he doesn’t feel he can’t compete at a high level, it has more to do with letting his wife, Maria Henderson — who recently signed a long-term deal with Bellator — to focus on her MMA career while he focuses more on his family, much like she did for him early on.
“She put off her career, like a lot of wives do,” Henderson said during a recent media day (via MMA Junkie). “It’s International Women’s Day today, so shout out to all the women out there, internationally, everywhere. They put up with a lot of stuff from us guys. My wife put off her career so I could shine and do what I do. 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,” he added.
“At the end of these (three) fights, I’m done. I think for everyone at retirement age and athletes who are going to retire, you always have that play-one-more Tom Brady, ‘Can you play one more? Can you not play one more?’ I still feel good. I still feel fast. I still feel I’m competitive. For me, it wouldn’t just be feeling competitive, like I can compete and hang with the best guys in the world and this and that. It’s mostly more about giving my wife her turn.”
Henderson’s next challenge will see him face off against Bellator’s Lightweight champion, Usman Nurmagomedov, in the main event of this Friday’s (March 10, 2023) Bellator 292 event. It will give him the opportunity to make history by becoming the only man to ever win titles for World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Bellator MMA.
“I think winning this grand prix will be pretty amazing. I have done a lot of work,” Henderson said. “The decisions I’ve made in my career going this path, the path of least resistance or the more comfortable paths, or the more steady path you go or which path you choose, all the decisions I’ve made, winning this grand prix, winning this lightweight belt, the third belt of mine, the Bellator lightweight title, it means everything. It means absolutely everything to me.”
Henderson is currently riding a two-fight win streak and if he dethrones Nurmagomedov, he will then have to defend the title in every subsequent round if he wants to win the $1 million jackpot at the end of the grand prix rainbow.
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