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Benson Henderson reacts to Francis Ngannou’s stand against the UFC: ‘It’s a good thing’

Bellator Dublin
Benson Henderson
Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Benson Henderson has a lot of respect for what Francis Ngannou has been doing and continues to do.

The UFC heavyweight champion retained his title with a unanimous decision win over Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 this past Saturday night in Anaheim, Calif. The win was even more impressive due to the fact that Ngannou has been dealing with contract issues with the promotion, along with a knee injury requiring surgery that will keep him out of action likely for the rest of 2022. On top of that, Ngannou alleged that the UFC sent an email threatening a potential lawsuit over supposed talks with Jake Paul’s business partner in a recent interview on The MMA Hour.

Henderson, a former UFC world champion, is set to compete this Saturday against Islam Mamedov in the co-main event of Bellator 273 this weekend and was asked to give his take on what Ngannou is trying to achieve since he left the promotion in 2016.

“I think it’s smart for Francis to do it,” Henderson told MMA Fighting on Wednesday. “Certain people allow certain things to happen to them and they’re either okay with it, or not okay with it. It’s up to each person individually what you’re okay with accepting.

“Ngannou is not accepting this, he’s not accepting that, and I think it’s on him. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. I think it’s good. I think he needs to stand up for what he believes, for what he’s willing to accept, and for the amount of respect that he’s due.

“A lot of that respect comes down to money to him, and the UFC can show him that kind of respect, no problem,” Henderson continued. “It would not be a big burden, ‘Oh, we’ve got to pay Ngannou. What does he want? $5 million? Oh no, we don’t have that kind of money.’ They’ve got that kind of money. So, yeah, I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. It’s a good thing for him to go after what he wants.”

For Henderson, he enters the bout with Mamedov on a three-fight losing streak, the longest of his career. “Smooth” told MMA Fighting that the matchup came together after a conversation with Bellator brass that led to a text exchange with Scott Coker, where the lightweight asked what he would need to do to get back into title contention as soon as possible knowing that at age 38 his fighting career isn’t going to last much longer.

The answer was fight Mamedov, one of the promotion’s newest 155-pounders. The Russian just so happens to be riding a 19-fight winning streak. In his Bellator debut, Mamedov defeated former lightweight champ Brent Primus, albeit in a somewhat controversial split decision.

Henderson has no excuses for his recent losses to Primus, Michael Chandler, and Jason Jackson. All he knows is that he needs to go into the Footprint Center in Phoenix, not far from his home, and leave with a win.

“I’ve never really been big with predictions, and my only prediction has always been me leaving the cage with my hand raised,” Henderson said. “I will say for this one that I will leave with my hand raised, but I’m going to kick him in the head at least two times. He’s pretty tough, he has a good chin and whatnot, but the first time I kick him in the head might not be enough. I’m kicking him in the head a couple of times and I’m leaving that cage with my hand raised.”