When Benson Henderson took home a split decision over Islam Mamedov in the co-main event of Bellator 273, it was a special moment for the former UFC lightweight champion, who scored his first win in over two years and did so in his hometown of Phoenix.
However, it was also potentially bittersweet.
The fight was the final bout on Henderson’s Bellator contract, and in the event’s aftermath, “Smooth” said he was unsure what his future held. Appearing Wednesday on The MMA Hour, Henderson said that if he had his druthers, he would re-sign with Bellator and make one final run at the lightweight title.
“For sure, I want to re-sign with Bellator,” Henderson said on The MMA Hour. “I want to get a Bellator belt wrapped around my waist. I need that Bellator belt.
“Actually, I feel bad for Bellator. I feel like I underperformed my contract for Bellator. They paid me a lot of money, so I think that I should have done a better job for Bellator. I didn’t do what they brought me over for. A big, huge free agent signing — you know that carries weight, that carries implications with it. I’m supposed to bring a Super Bowl title. When you’re a big free agent like that, you’re supposed to bring a Super Bowl back to your team and I don’t think I did that. I don’t think I ever had great performances.
“In the WEC and UFC I had some great performances,” Henderson continued, “and I think that’s what Bellator mostly paid for, the performance. They wanted performance, the wanted highlight reels, that kind of stuff, and I didn’t give that to them.”
Henderson is the former WEC and UFC lightweight champion, with wins over some of the most accomplished lightweights in history; however, since joining Bellator in 2016, he has struggled to find the form that saw him rise to the top of the sport.
Henderson challenged for the Bellator welterweight and lightweight belts in 2016 but came up short in both instances. His overall record in the promotion stands at 6-6. It’s a record Henderson hopes to improve upon, so long as Bellator will have him back at a fair rate.
“I’m going to fight for Bellator or I might be done,” Henderson said. “That’s what I see it as right now. Someone else might come with an offer I can’t say no to, some big numbers and I’ll be like, ‘OK, sure.’ But for me, I want the Bellator belt around my waist.
“They paid me a lot of money, I’ve got to make sure I get my due justice. I don’t want to fight for pennies or nothing like that. I don’t really need money, so it’s fine. I’ve done very well in my career, so I’m not going to say I’m fighting for money, but it’s the principle of it. I know how much I’m worth, so the principle of it, I can’t really fight for less than I’m worth.”
Henderson’s worth will be the question moving forward then as Bellator President Scott Coker said on Saturday that he would be interested in bringing Henderson back, particularly because Henderson just beat a man who was on a 19-fight winning streak.
But, if somehow things go awry and Henderson never ends up fighting again, “Smooth” is content with ending his career on a high note.
“I would’ve been OK with it before the last fight, but with the last fight going the way it did, having my two older boys in the cage with me, getting my hand raised in my hometown of Phoenix, AZ, there’s probably no better way to go out than that right there,” he said.