Since losing the lightweight belt to Anthony Pettis at UFC 164 in August, Benson Henderson has been relatively quiet. He hasn't spent any time making excuses over his performance. He hasn't been bemoaning the fact that his "tap" on the armbar was so sudden (and inconclusive) as to become a little controversial. And, in keeping with his style, he hasn't been calling guys out.
Henderson has slowly been putting the pieces back together as he recovers from small ligament tears that he suffered in the fight. On Monday, though, "Smooth" finally broke his silence by making an appearance on The MMA Hour. Among the range of topics discussed, Henderson cleared up exactly what happened in Milwaukee on the subject of whether he tapped verbally, physically or at all.
"I didn't know that there were a lot of questions about that," he told host Ariel Helwani. "Guys who practice jiu-jitsu, guys who roll around, we know. If somebody taps, they think tap or they tap their legs where the referee can't see it…there's a lot of mutual respect among fighters, among jiu-jitsu players. If someone taps and the ref didn't see it, I'm going to be man enough to let go and not crank it and break something. I'm going to be man enough to admit, yeah, I said tap.
"I'm not going to act like I didn't say tap because no one else saw it. But yeah, I think I said tap, and I could barely move my other hand, my free hand, which wasn't really that free -- it was trapped with my other arm. But I think I barely, lightly tapped with that hand…and [Pettis] being the good dude that he is let go. Herb didn't see it I guess."
As for where the loss to Pettis leaves him in the division, Henderson only hopes it's near enough to the top. Henderson is now 0-2 against Pettis, yet 12-0 against everyone else he's faced under the Zuffa banner in both the WEC and UFC. He's not likely to get a title shot again while Pettis is holding the belt. Though Henderson said he won't be actively rooting for Josh Thomson come December when he fights Pettis for the strap, he did speculate on fights that could potentially expedite him right back to the top in the pecking order.
"We're kind of leaning towards Rafael dos Anjos," he said. "We think it would be a good fight with him, entertaining, a good fight, and I think the match-up works well for us. I don't know if he has anybody scheduled or not."
As far as soft call outs go, this one was as polite -- and ultimately as rational -- as they come.
Dos Anjos, who made it five wins in a row after dominating Donald Cerrone in August, doesn't currently have a fight booked. He hovers in the top three or four guys in the division, and has positioned himself for a title eliminator. Though the UFC normally stays away from booking fighters with winning streaks against those coming off of losses, Henderson might be the exception to the loose rule. Henderson, as the former 155-pound champion, won seven in a row before the loss to Pettis. He hasn't fallen very far.
Henderson was willing to listen to suggestions on his next fight, though, and opened the floor for Helwani and the fans. When names like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Gray Maynard and Gilbert Melendez were brought up, sorted through them and expressed his druthers.
"I will admit my initial impression is, Gilbert, I'm not really too interested in rematches," he said, citing his title defense with Melendez in April. "To get my title back? I'll do any rematch, I'll fight somebody ten times, doesn't matter. But not too interested in rematches…I guess the drive, the desire is not there, whatever you want to call it."
As for Nurmagomedov, Henderson liked the idea that the Dagestani fighter was undefeated and operating with a head of steam, though he did call him "young." Henderson reiterated that he wants a fighter next who can catapult him back into title contention. Short of that, he's all ears.
When asked later if he would consider moving up to 170 pounds -- an idea he flirted with as champion during the fervor of all "superfight" talk in 2012 -- Henderson said he would in certain circumstances.
"I told Dana I would be willing to go up to 170, not as a permanent fixture at 170, but to get a couple of fights, kind of like Nate Diaz did before," he said. "To me that's always the hardest part to fighting, is getting down to weight. So if I had a go up to 170, I think I'd be okay with that. Not for 'superfights,' because that's probably off the table for right now, but just to go up there and maybe help the UFC out if somebody gets hurt, as a late-notice replacement or something like that. I'd have no problem making 170. I could make 170 on like a day's notice, two day's notice. So, that being said, I would help out the UFC and take a 170 as a late-notice replacement."