Benson Henderson doesn’t like Michael Chandler. But the former UFC champ doesn’t think that’s particularly relevant heading into their rematch at Bellator 243.
A post-fight shove from the then-champ at Bellator 165, Henderson’s first meeting with Chandler, left a lasting impression that echoed in subsequent interviews. Henderson would rather not dwell on that negativity, but this is the fight business, and controversy sells.
“The reporters, you guys are smart,” the lightweight veteran said on Wednesday during a virtual media day in support of the rematch on Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. “You ask the right questions to get the response you want to hear – ‘So, uh, what do you think about his shoes?’ I don’t really like his shoes. ‘Oh, you don’t like his shoes, so you have a problem with his personality? You don’t like him, right?’ No! I just said I don’t like his shoes!
“For me, I don’t really like Chandler, but it’s not that big of a deal. I don’t have to like everybody. You don’t have to like your co-workers. You don’t have to like your family, your brothers or sisters. You’ve got to love them, but you don’t have to like them that much.
“I don’t necessarily think Michael Chandler is my cup of tea. But I don’t think he really cares that I don’t like him as a person. I don’t think he’s a super stand-up, Dudley Do-Right person. I think he likes to portray that image, but I don’t think he’s necessarily like that at heart, but what does it matter, my opinion of somebody else? We’re in a fist fight. We don’t need to be friends, anyway. I don’t necessarily like him, but reporters keep bringing that up. It’s not that big of a deal, but yeah, I don’t really like him.”
For Henderson, his feelings toward Chandler are irrelevant from the opening bell. He plans to avenge a loss he believes was incorrectly scored, and leave no doubt in his opponent that he’s the better man. That’s at least part of the reason his past with Chandler irks him.
“I know I won that fight,” Henderson said. “He was a dang near broken man from that fourth round going into the fifth. I’m looking into his eyes after the fight, and he knows he lost. How many guys have had bad blood and feuded, and what happens after the fight? They shake hands. They say something, they shake hands. But a fighter who pushes another fighter after a fight, after 25 minutes trying to beat the person up, after the bell rings and then you push them? To me that shows a serious amount of your character right there, and that he knew he lost.”
Heading into Saturday, a victory might be more important than ever to Chandler, who’s fulfilling the final obligation on his current Bellator contract. Henderson could not only get a win back, but drastically weaken his rival’s negotiating position for the future.
In theory, a win could also set up a trilogy. After all, the pair are two of the greatest lightweights to ever compete in the Bellator cage, and there aren’t that many who occupy that rarified air. But that’s a question for later.
Henderson can at least acknowledge that Chandler is a great fighter, and not every part of his opponent’s actions grate on him.
“He’s adopted a child,” the ex-UFC champ said. “Mad respect to him for that for him and his wife adopting a child. I’m hoping my wife and I will also be lucky enough to adopt a few kids and change their lives. Some of the other things, I don’t have a ton of respect for, but I don’t think he really cares.”
Either way, they’ll punch each other in the face on Friday, just like any other day on the job.