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Benson Henderson on having a toothpick in his mouth during fights: 'I don't think it's illegal'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Benson Henderson doesn't think there's a point to Toothpickgate.

The former UFC lightweight champion flashed a toothpick in his mouth during a fight with Brandon Thatch at UFC Fight Night 60 on Saturday in Broomfield, Colo. It wasn't the first time Henderson has done it, but the implication that he was competing in a fight with a sharp object in his mouth caused a stir on social media. Some people even called for the athletic commission to do something about it.

"I don't think it's illegal," Henderson told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I don't think it's against the rules."

Henderson, who beat Thatch by submission with a rear-naked choke in the fourth round, doesn't think it was dangerous and said he has been doing it since he was a high school wrestler.

"It's as dangerous for me to have a toothpick in your mouth as it is to have a 200-pound man punch me in the face hard or try to kick me in the face," said Henderson, who moved up a weight class to fight Thatch on just two weeks notice. I'm more worried about that, to be honest."

Henderson (22-5) said the only time the toothpick has affected him with regards to MMA was one of the first times he ever rolled with coach John Crouch at The MMA Lab in Glendale, Ariz. Crouch had his back and was going for a neck crank when the toothpick pressed into his cheek. "Smooth" said he also once swallowed a toothpick when he was trying to play a practical joke on his mother by scaring her.

"She was surprised, startled," Henderson said. "Then I laughed. When I started choking, she got seriously scared.

"It was bad, but I lived. I was able to tell the story."

Henderson, 31, said the toothpick isn't some kind of good luck charm. It's just something he has done for a long time that he can't seem to shake.

"I don't have any superstitions," Henderson said. "I won world titles with a toothpick. I defended it without a toothpick. It all depends. Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don't. It's a bad habit. I know I shouldn't do it, but it's fine."

The toothpick usually gets hidden in his mouth during fights, either under his tongue or in his cheek. It'll appear here and there mid-round and then go away again until the end -- especially when Henderson wins, which is a common occurrence.

It certainly hasn't affected his performance or caused any injury to his opponents. Henderson held the UFC lightweight title from February 2012 to August 2013. Since then, he is 3-2, including a somewhat controversial decision loss to Donald Cerrone last month in Boaton.

"I do it every day in practice," Henderson said. "I've done it most of my fights."

Like it or not, the Henderson's toothpick is here to stay.

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