Al Bello, Getty Images
Benson Henderson just can't seem to get his name out of everyone's mouth.
Since earning the UFC lightweight strap with a unanimous decision victory over Frankie Edgar at UFC 144, Henderson has somehow found himself within the crossfires of the MMA world, a casualty of the UFC's latest high-profile judging debate.
Weeks after the controversial decision, Edgar, the former champion, has atypically embarked on a crusade for the rematch he feels he justly deserves. UFC President Dana White, on the other hand, steadfastly stands by his opinion that Edgar would be better served at featherweight, and even offered an immediate title shot against reigning 145-pound champion Jose Aldo to sweeten the deal.
To no one's surprise, Henderson has thus far stayed out of the way, instead travelling to Korea in an experience he called "surreal." However, after nine days of mounting frustration, the 28-year-old fighter broke his silence on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
"Frankie had a very tough situation," Henderson admitted. "He had a rough road with two rematches right away after his title defenses. So the fan in me feels that he deserves (the rematch). He had to put himself on the line, I don't want anybody coming back to me and saying ‘oh, Henderson didn't want to rematch Frankie because he was scared.'
"I'm more than willing to give Frankie a rematch. Let's do it. Set it up for tomorrow."
Henderson's logic is sound, and essentially follows the script laid out by Edgar. However, as White has voiced, yet another lightweight title rematch would clog up a division that just escaped a two-year traffic jam.
And what of the odd man out of this equation -- Anthony Pettis? The electrifying fan-favorite who scored a highlight-reel knockout on very same card, and also happens to be the last person to defeat Henderson.
Pettis, who was once guaranteed his own ill-fated UFC title shot, expressed disappointment through his manager last week, stating he feels disrespected by Henderson's seeming disinterest in fighting him. Though according to "Bendo," that's just par for the course.
"Of course he's going to go out and say that stuff because he wants his guy to fight for the belt," Henderson tensely responded. "What did you have Jeremy Stephens ranked before the Anthony Pettis fight? Not in the top ten. What did you have Joe Lauzon ranked before his fight?
"Does someone who has a split-decision over someone who is not ranked, and then has a pretty good win against the No. 10 guy, is he deserving of a title shot because of those two wins? Or is he deserving of a title shot because he beat me last?"
Pettis did indeed hand Henderson his last loss, stealing away the final WEC lightweight championship at WEC 53 with a last-second off-the-cage ninja maneuver he dubbed the "Showtime Kick." It was a battle that many media outlets christened the "Fight of the Year," which adds to the perceived public interest in a rematch.
But Henderson wants to make it clear, he has no problems accepting that fight eventually. Right now there's just a few people who are ahead in line.
"Do I want to face Pettis again? Absolutely," Henderson explained. "We will see each other again. Before I retire, before I die, I'm going to see Anthony Pettis again. But it's not my job to give him a title shot. It's not up to me be like, ‘oh hey, I want to fight this guy. Lets go see this guy.' It's his job to work his way up to me.
"I can't jump the line and not fight the No. 1 contender, and then go fight the No. 4 guy or No. 3 guy or No. 10 guy."
Such is the life of a champion. Everybody wants a piece and everybody is a critic.
For someone as respectful as Henderson, the backlash has been an unexpected addendum to the belt. He's already received hundreds of messages from fans accusing him of fearing everybody from Jim Miller and Nate Diaz, to Jacob Volkmann.
But like he always says, it is what it is.
"Either way I go, I'm going to get crap," Henderson finally acknowledged.
"Hopefully people will start to realize and understand, I will fight anybody. I don't care. I'm going to smash them."
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