UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson (19-2-0, 8 submissions) couldn’t care less about who he faces next inside the Octagon. That’s because he’s confident he’ll emerge victorious regardless.
“As I’ve always said, I don’t care who I fight or when I fight them. I’m going to do what I always do, which is [to] continue training to be the best in the world,” Henderson stated (via MMAFighting.com). “I’ll just fight and let the others worry about talking their way into fights.”
After his first round destruction of Gray Maynard at UFC 160, T.J. Grant seemed like the likely next opponent for Benson Henderson. UFC president Dana White appeared to be onboard with that sentiment as well, stating Grant would indeed get the next shot at Benson during the post-fight press conference.
Things have changed since then.
Anthony Pettis, who pulled out of his scheduled UFC 163 title clash against the 145-pound division’s current champion Jose Aldo due to a knee injury, a bout he secured by jumping over the line of contenders — like Chan Sung Jung and Cub Swanson — in the featherweight division, now wants the next shot at Henderson.
White plans to fly Pettis out to Las Vegas to determine if the last WEC lightweight champion — and the last man to defeat Benson — will be healed in time to fight at UFC 164 which is set for Aug. 31. If UFC doctors end up clearing Pettis, there’s a decent chance T.J. might be given the shaft, considering the fact the demand for Henderson vs. Pettis 2 is considerably larger.
When Henderson, who was the WEC lightweight champion, and Pettis met back in 2010, they put on one of the most entertaining bouts in recent MMA history, giving fans a thrilling five-rounder which was capped off by a beautiful kick off the cage which has now been dubbed the “Showtime kick.”
That move sealed the deal for Pettis at WEC 53, as the cage-side judges awarded him with the unanimous decision afterwards and the WEC’s lightweight title.
If Pettis had knocked out Henderson with that kick, it would undoubtedly be the greatest knockout in MMA history.
That doesn’t mean replacing Grant with Pettis at UFC 164 is the right move.
Giving Pettis Grant’s UFC 164 spot would be extremely unfair to the Canadian, considering the strong statement T.J. made against Maynard a month ago. Skill wise, Grant is clearly capable of competing with Henderson, so removing him simply for marketing reasons will definitely rub some MMA fans the wrong way.
Pettis understands that reality, but he isn’t making any apologies.
“You can’t knock me for trying,” Pettis said on the ‘MMA Hour.’ “I want a title shot so bad.”