Ben Henderson: I'm going to break Anderson Silva's UFC title defense record in 2016
"I'm going to break it in 2016," Henderson declares within the locker room of Glendale's MMA Lab. The statement seemingly comes out of nowhere, but Henderson's voice is steady.
"I should be able to break it by 2015, but because I'm getting married I'm going to take some time off for my honeymoon. That's going to set me back by about three to four months. But I have it down exactly. I know when I'm going to break it. It's going to be early 2016. I know what number I need to get. I know the amount of hard work it's going to take for me to get there. I know how much I've got to get beat up, I know how much I've got to practice. I'm aware of it. I know it. Now my goal is to go out there and go do it."
Henderson gazes down to the floor then rips a hunk off his tuna sandwich. In the fight game, athletes sign death warrants by getting too ahead of themselves, staring too far down the line and overlooking opponents. But Henderson has been saying this all along. The truth is, nothing has changed. Now 10' is simply a reality instead of an idea. And right now, 10' is looking like a daunting climb, considering 3' was grueling enough.
Henderson hears the critics. It's impossible not to. After utterly dismantling Nate Diaz for 25 minutes on national television, Henderson thought the worst was behind him. But then Gilbert Melendez happened, and a familiar refrain came flooding back.
"I am cognizant of it. I'm aware of it. But ultimately, it is what it is," Henderson says.
"I didn't have my best performance, which then led to a close fight. But if I have a good performance, Nate Diaz happens. And then what? What do you hear about Nate Diaz? Nothing. What did you hear about Mark Bocek? I had a decision against Mark Bocek. Was there any backlash, anything about Mark Bocek? No. I beat the crap out of Mark Bocek.
"Next was Jim Miller," he continues. "I beat the crap out of Jim Miller. Oh, he was sick though, so excuse me. He was ill, so that was my bad. ... Clay Guida, I beat the crap out of him. Did anybody say anything about controversial decision or blah, blah, blah? No.
"So that's what? Gil and then Frankie (Edgar) the second time? So two close fights? Really?"
"It's not that I don't care," Henderson explains. "But the way I see it, some guys talk about how great they were in high school or in college. 'Oh yeah, in high school I was the man. I did this and oh man, blah, blah, blah.' Yeah, dude. You're right, that was cool. Awesome. Good for you then. But guess what? We're past that now. I'm over that. You've got to man up at a certain point and stop living in the past."
The narrative fits so well, it's strange to think about how this inevitable collision almost never happened. No. 4 on Henderson's quest to 10 could've been T.J. Grant. But a pesky concussion lead to his removal from the equation, and along the way Pettis never stopped talking.
Henderson admits, almost begrudgingly, that he knows "it's better business" to fight Pettis. It's his first chance to cash in those shiny new pay-per-view points, after all.
But for Henderson, there's more to it than that.
"I'm not going to talk my way into a title fight," he says. "Send a text message and say, Oh, I want this guy now.' Just not how I do things. Some people are good at it. Some people make their career on doing that. It's not how my mama raised me.
"It's fine. Get paid your money. Get paid however you can. You want to get your money from talking, by all means go right ahead. Get your money from talking. You want to get your money by earning it? By fighting the best, not complaining, keeping your nose to grind and doing that -- then do that."
"(Georges) St-Pierre says it. If I'm going against somebody, and I know his weakness is this place, yeah, I'm going to exploit it. I'm going to find out every weakness and then go pick on that area."