Referees in professional mixed martial arts contests have the job of enforcing the rules of the contest and keeping the fighters safe. That often means saving them from themselves. Sometimes, however, that job falls on the hurt fighter's benevolent opponent.
As we all now know, Pettis was able to snatch the title away from Henderson with a sensational firs-round armbar, but it wasn't referee Herb Dean who called the contest off. The decision to end the contest was made by the competitor's themselves.
"The reason why I stopped is because I felt two pops," Pettis told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour. "I felt his arm pop twice and I was face down and Henderson was face down also between my legs. So, that's why Herb Dean probably didn't hear it, but I felt two pops.
"I felt the first pop and I knew that one wasn't going to be enough to make him quit and once he belly downed on me, I sunk it in deep and I felt a second pop and he went into panic mode and said 'Tap, tap tap!' a couple of times. You know me, I just let it go and it was done there."
Pettis believes Henderson's arm 'was done' and that it's in everyone's best interest the fight didn't continue. Had they stood up at some point, the new UFC lightweight champion is certain Henderson wouldn't have been able to use it for either blocking kicks and punches or anything offensive.
As everyone saw, there were no protests from the Henderson camp when it was all said and done. Pettis believes this comes not just from an understanding from Henderson that he lost, but because they have enough respect for each other.
"Me and Ben, we both respect each other," Pettis says. "We're not friends. We'll probably never be friends. We'll probably fight each other again, but we both respect each other enough to give credit and where credit is due.
In fact, Henderson went so far as to tell Pettis later what he thought of the tough first-round submission.