Benson Henderson may have just turned 37, but he believes he still has some new tricks to showcase, which he plans to do on Thursday night.
Henderson faces Jason Jackson in a welterweight matchup in the co-main event of Bellator 253. The event takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., and will air on CBS Sports Network.
In his most recent appearance, the former UFC world champion took on Michael Chandler in the main event of August’s Bellator 243 event and was knocked out in just over two minutes in what would end up being Chandler’s final fight for the promotion. Henderson admits he was thrown off by his opponent switching stances, and he continued his aggressive game plan before getting caught with a left hand.
Henderson has put the loss behind him and now takes a fight on less than a month’s notice for the first time in a long time.
“I was given notice about Jason about two weeks ahead of time,” Henderson told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I did text Bellator and said, ‘I don’t know if I need to tell you this or not, I’m sure you guys know this already, but if you got anything short notice at 170 (let me know)’
“For (a fight at) 155, I’d probably need three to four weeks’ notice, but 170, give me two days’ notice. Two or three days later they hit me up and said, ‘Hey, you said you wanted something short notice: how about Jason Jackson, Nov. 19?’ I said, ‘Let’s do it. I’m your Huckleberry.’”
Jackson, meanwhile, has won his last two, and five of six. The lone loss came via split decision against Ed Ruth at Bellator 231 in a fight a lot of people saw for Jackson. “The Ass-Kicking Machine” bounced back with decision wins over Kiichi Kunimoto and Jordan Mein to set himself up for the biggest fight of his career against Henderson—a guy ready to showcase some new art for all to see.
“I didn’t know much about Jason,” Henderson said. “I did see his fight with Ed Ruth so the name sounded familiar. I think I only saw one of his fights and I do like the matchup. Hopefully it allows me the opportunity to showcase a lot of the things I’ve been working on. I use the analogy as a fighter: there’s good fighters who have been around, they’re like painters. Someone who paints something, they want to show it to the world. ‘Hey, look what we’re working on. I’ve spent two months painting this painting, it’s beautiful and I want the world to see it. Check it out.’
“Fighters like myself, I’m the same way. I’m like, ‘Hey, I got kicked in the head 17 times, I got punched to the body 27 times, I’m working on these new spin moves, check it out.’ I want to showcase to the world the stuff I’ve been working on and I think Jason Jackson gives me that opportunity—whether it was things I was working on for Chandler specifically, or Myles Jury, Saad Awad and all of those guys. I got my hand raised, and that’s awesome. I’m grateful for that, but I wasn’t able to showcase my standup and a lot of the things I’ve been working on.
“I’ve been working on a lot of new techniques with my striking coach Rob Emerson and I’m able to land it much more consistently in practice. So I want to show the world, ‘Check this out. He’s gonna catch my leg, I’m gonna jump, I’m gonna spin in the air and give him a back kick.’ Very rarely do you get the opportunity to pull these moves off, but I’m hoping to have that against Jason Jackson.”
Most fans see the limitless potential in Jackson, yet every time he’s had the opportunity to take things to the next level, he’s—admittedly so—come up just short. Between his chances on The Ultimate Fighter, Dana White’s Contender Series, and others, Jackson is surely hoping to finally get over that hump.
While Henderson is impressed Jackson has been able to see that in himself, he has no intentions of being the guy on the other end.
“For anyone to overcome a problem, they first have to recognize it, understand it,” Henderson said. “For him to recognize that, to say that, speaks volumes about him as a person and as an athlete.
“It wasn’t something I was really aware of, but it’s something I intend to keep that going for him.”