As the head coach of The Lab MMA in Glendale, Arizona, John Crouch has guided the career of Ben Henderson all the way to a UFC championship level. He hopes to add a second champion to his stable on Saturday when John Moraga attempts to wrest the flyweight belt from the grasp of Demetrious Johnson. As elite trainers go, this will put Crouch in rare company, alongside names like Greg Jackson and Ray Longo. For now, though, he remains a bit unheralded in relation to his success; perhaps that's because some of it has gone under the radar.
Moraga, after all, has gone mostly unnoticed except by the most ardent of fans; Henderson is far better known, but the current UFC fixture took some time to click with audiences after coming over from the WEC.
Even though he is the current UFC champion, Henderson's most memorable match may well be his WEC finale against Anthony Pettis, a fight that spawned one of the sport's all-time jaw-dropping moments and planted the seeds for a rematch almost three years in the making.
Yet all this time later, Crouch has his issues with both the way Pettis' "Showtime Kick" is remembered, as well as the way Pettis found his path into a UFC 164 title shot with Henderson.
The kick? Yeah it was spectacular and visionary and has been played on an endless loop since it happened, but Crouch believes its reputation has far exceeded its effectiveness.
"It was a fluke," he said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "It's like getting caught with a punch. All the best fighters have lost, you know what I mean? How many times has Anderson Silva seen the Ryo Chonan heel hook? How many times is he going to see Chris Weidman catching him with that hook? If you're great, if you compete with the best people in the sport, you are going to have an unfortunate moment at some point. And they're going to replay it and talk about it, but it's just another moment. It’s one speck of time. There was 24 minutes and 59 seconds of that fight that still went on.
"The thing that I remember about the 'Showtime Kick' or whatever you want to call it, is that Ben got up and was on a single leg to finish the fight," he continued. "He was going to get that single. He was getting that takedown. It there's 15 more seconds, Anthony's on his back."
The kick is largely credited with swinging the final round in Pettis' favor, as he won a close fight by unanimous decision.
That match took place in Henderson's hometown of Glendale, Arizona, and ironically, the rematch will take place in Pettis' hometown, Milwaukee. Crouch said that's a perfect setup for Henderson, because it allows the champion total focus on the fight without the distraction of everyday life. In effect, Henderson becomes just another commuter heading out of town on business travel.
"I'm fine being in enemy territory," he said. "Let's do it."
Not that he's particularly jazzed about the rematch, or more specifically, the route Pettis took to get there. Pettis, he acknowledges, is a great fighter and is an acceptable, even "deserving" replacement for an injured T.J. Grant. But Pettis' campaigning for the fight even before Grant was forced out? Well, that type of behavior -- the new trend of attempting to earn undeserved title fights -- doesn't sit well with him.
"I don't like that," he said. "I hate it, and it's part of our sport. It’s undeniable. The people in the UFC respond to loudmouths and people saying crazy stuff. That's great, I guess. Those guys are really smart. They've made tons of money. I'm able to do what I do because the people at the UFC are really smart, but it’s a part of the sport I really don’t like at all."
He cautions that people should not confuse his personal beef with his view on Pettis' skills. Calling the challenger a "super-skilled" fighter, Crouch said that Henderson better be 100 percent ready in order to achieve victory in a rematch that has no personal for meaning for the champ past retaining his cherished belt.
"It was almost three years ago. That's a long time ago," Crouch said. "Both guys are completely different. Same style, but they've developed a lot."