It’s a far cry from where Henderson started out just a few years ago when he was cleaning toilets, mopping floors, and teaching classes at The MMA Lab in Arizona just to be able to train full time.
Well, from now on, whenever Henderson decides something needs to be cleaned up at the gym, he’ll be picking up on his own floors and his own mats.
Just a few weeks before Henderson makes the long journey to Japan to face Edgar at UFC 144, the former WEC champion purchased The MMA Lab to become its full-time owner, as well as one of its top teachers and fighters.
“It’s a pretty big difference from five years ago cleaning out the toilets, taking out the garbage, and going on Starbucks runs for the owner and his wife. Pretty big difference, and I’m happy for it,” Henderson joked when speaking with MMAWeekly.com.
When Henderson first moved to Arizona to work at the gym, he was already in a fortunate situation in that he was able to train full time, but not without more than a few sacrifices.
“I was pretty blessed with my situation when I came out here to Arizona. The old owner whose name was Jason Beck, he asked John Crouch, who he was friends with from back in the old school Gracie Academy days, he knew John had some fighters in Denver and he asked if he and some of his fighters would like to move to Arizona and just train and fight full time. So early on in my career I was able to move out here to Arizona and just train full time,” Henderson explained.
“I was sponsored from The Lab. I got like a couple hundred dollars a month, just barely enough to survive, but I cleaned toilets, mopped mats, do all the odd ends sort of jobs. So I was able to train full time, so I’d train in the mornings, train in the afternoons, but in between I’d clean up, I’d teach the kids’ classes, clean up at night also.”
Henderson’s days were pretty routine. It was either about training, teaching or cleaning up somebody’s mess, and that’s just how life was for the future UFC lightweight contender. It may sound mundane to you and me, but to Benson Henderson those were the building blocks on his road to a championship.
“I’d get there in the morning; I’d train in the morning. I’d have to clean up in the afternoon, clean the toilets, clean up the mats, take out the garbage. Then I’d train in the afternoon from three to five; afterwards I’d have to help teach some of the classes. Then I’d have to clean up at night after all the evening classes. I was there almost two years just training and working nonstop,” said Henderson.
That’s been Henderson’s life since college. In his youngest days when he first got to school, he was the youngest guy on the mats during wrestling practice and sure enough the more experienced grapplers were more than happy to show him that. From that experience his work ethic grew and grew, and it continued to develop alongside his MMA career.
“I think I’ve done that for most of my life. In college my freshman year, I got the crap beat out of me every day. I literally left practice every day sad cause I just got beat up every day. A 17-year-old kid wrestling grown men, getting the crap kicked out of me, helped build me to the man that I am now,” Henderson stated.
“Same thing when I was starting out as a young fighter. You have to go through those trials and tribulations, those tough times, to make you better. But I needed all of that to really appreciate it all now. To do what it takes to get here.”
The hard work paid off both in and out of the cage for Henderson. He now owns The MMA Lab, which has been as much a home to him as any house he could own.
Henderson met his girlfriend while training at The Lab, and feels like all of the fighters and people that train there are family to him.
“It’s just a good place, good feel and good people there,” said Henderson.
Now that he’s a full gym owner, Henderson is in one of the happiest places he’s ever been. He’s realized one dream by buying his own training facility, and he’ll look to add to that when he fights Frankie Edgar at UFC 144.
“Going from that to gym owner to fighting for the title, it’s something I am very excited for.”