Benson Henderson was about to start a boxing session early last week when he got a text message from Donald Cerrone. "Cowboy" wasn't just trying to catch up with his old friend. He had some news.
Henderson was supposed to meet Eddie Alvarez in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Siver on Sunday night in Boston. Not anymore, Cerrone told him. Alvarez was hurt and Henderson's new opponent was, well, Cerrone himself.
"I didn't find out until 'Cowboy' texted me," Henderson told MMAFighting.com. "The UFC didn't call me. They didn't ask me. They didn't say anything. Actually, 'Cowboy' hit me up and said, 'Hey man, nothing personal. Just business. It's all love.' I texted him back: 'Oh man, yeah. I don't know what you're talking about, but yeah. Sure. Of course. Whatever.'"
Henderson, the former UFC lightweight champion, isn't sure why the UFC didn't inform him. Maybe it's because officials know Henderson doesn't really give a damn about his opponent, a philosophy he has in common with "Cowboy."
"Who knows? I don't know the answer to that question," Henderson said when asked why he wasn't told by UFC brass. "I don't care. It doesn't matter. Anybody in the 155-pound division -- anytime, anywhere, any place. I don't care who it is. I'm as confident as any other fighter on the entire planet, if not more so."
Henderson's reaction to the news was minimal. He responded to Cerrone's text, checked out Twitter and then went right about his business. No big deal.
"That was it," Henderson said. "I found out I was facing off against 'Cowboy.' I was about to start a boxing session with one of my boxing coaches, Mauricio Esposito. I just put my phone away and went to go work out. 'Oh cool, got a new guy.'"
Henderson and Cerrone have fought twice before, both under the WEC banner. Henderson won both times. The first one was a grueling, five-round classic in which Henderson won the interim WEC lightweight title by unanimous decision. The second time around, Henderson jumped a guillotine at 1:57 of the first round and choked "Cowboy" out.
Both men have improved since then. Henderson won the UFC lightweight title from Frankie Edgar in February 2012 and defended it three times before losing it to current titleholder Anthony Pettis in August 2013. He has won two of three since then and is still regarded as one of the very best lightweights in the world.
Cerrone has emerged as a huge fan favorite in the UFC. He has won six straight, four of them via finish, and is closing in on a title shot. "Cowboy," the most active fighter in the organization, is a ridiculous 13-3 in the UFC in four years.
Henderson concedes that both men, each 31 years old, have improved since their last fight. After all, it was almost five years ago. Henderson seemed clearly like the better fighter then and he doesn't foresee a change in strategy this time around.
"I'm just going to go beat him up," Henderson said. "The game plan is always the same."
Henderson and Cerrone have remained close. They don't talk every day, but they keep in touch. Henderson considers them buddies.
Last year, the two of them made a little wager on the Super Bowl. Henderson is a huge Seattle Seahawks fan and Cerrone is an avid follower of the Denver Broncos. The initial bet was that the loser would shave his eyebrows. That didn't quite pan out.
"We both heard that sometimes your eyebrows don't grow back," Henderson said. "So we weren't too game on that. He still owes me since the Seahawks won last year. I might have him do something special for the weigh-ins. We'll see."
"Cowboy" is surely anticipating the text.