Three title fights, three title wins, and nearly six million viewers for his last fight, and with that Benson Henderson has done more than enough to earn MMAWeekly.com‘s award for Fighter of the Year for 2012.
The year opened for Henderson in Japan where he finally got his shot at the UFC lightweight title when he faced champion Frankie Edgar. A back and forth battle ensued, but when it was over Henderson was crowned the UFC lightweight champion.
The fight was so close enough, however, that the UFC granted Edgar a rematch just months later, but Henderson never complained or cried about facing the former champion a second time, much less in back-to-back fights.
The rematch was even closer than the original one, but again Henderson got the nod for the victory, and with that made his first title defense as UFC champion.
To close out 2012, Henderson traveled to Seattle to face No. 1 lightweight contender Nate Diaz at UFC on Fox 5 in the main event. Up until then, Diaz had been dominant in his last few fights putting away names like Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Jim Miller.
There was no close call in this one, however, as Henderson dominated from bell-to-bell, putting on a masterful performance in his one-sided decision win over Diaz. It was the second time Henderson had been on a UFC on Fox card, but unlike his first fight which was a preliminary bout and did not make the airwaves, his second time was like a dream come true.
Nearly six million viewers saw Henderson’s performance over Diaz, which capped off a phenomenal year for the former WEC champion, and earned him a well deserved spot as Fighter of the Year for 2012.
“Thank you so much, it’s nice to be recognized for what you do,” Henderson told MMAWeekly Radio after being notified of the award. “Whether you’re a reporter and you win the Pulitzer, or whatever the case is, any time you get recognition and appreciation for what you do, that’s always awesome. Fighter of the Year, there’s a lot of great fighters out there, a lot of tough fighters out there, I’ll definitely take it.”
Claiming the UFC title and defending it twice, plus Henderson buying a stake in his home gym in Arizona, were important for him, but through all of that it was a trip to Korea that meant the most to the UFC lightweight champion in 2012.
Henderson visited the country following his title win over Frankie Edgar in February along with his mother, whose heritage is Korean. He says it was like nothing he’s ever seen before, and probably nothing he’ll ever see again, and to put it bluntly, the entire experience was unforgettable.
“After the first fight in Japan against Frankie (Edgar) after I won, going over to Korea. The reception that I got in Korea was mind-blowing. I don’t think I’ll ever really get used to that, it was truly mind-blowing. It was like Rolling Stones type stuff, completely overwhelming. That was what stuck out the most for me in 2012,” Henderson stated.
For all the celebrating that Henderson could do in 2012, he’s simply happy to be where he’s at, and stays grounded in who he is as a person. When he goes into his gym, Henderson is still just one of the boys, and isn’t treated any differently now than before he had the UFC title.
Staying true to who he is as a person and fighter are key reasons why Henderson flew to the top of the lightweight division in 2012, and that attitude and work ethic could make him a front runner for the same kind of accolades in 2013.
“What it boils down to is not believing your own hype, not getting sucked into that kind of materialistic world. That Hollywood lifestyle. It’s a little bit of your own personality, a little bit of trial and error, you learn through your own mistakes, you learn from other people’s mistakes. You see other people go through it and what happens to them, and you go ‘oh, they messed up because they did this’ and you can learn from that and you don’t have to make those same mistakes to learn,” Henderson stated.
Thus far in his career, Benson Henderson has made very few mistakes and excels in his triumphs. He should be proud of what he did in 2012, and 2013 looks very bright for the UFC’s reigning and defending lightweight champion.