by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com
Interim title, shm-interim title, this is a fight!
One of the WEC’s top prospects, Ben Henderson, has now vicariously become one of the bigger commodities in the promotion’s lightweight division.
Originally earning his way into the organization riding a six-fight win streak, which included a victory over three-time UFC veteran Diego Saraiva, Henderson made an immediate mark into his new home when he faced off against Anthony Njokuani (now 10-2), a dangerous and explosive knockout artist, submitting him in the second round via guillotine choke.
Njokuani had only been defeated once before, at the hands of Donald Cerrone; a man who Henderson will make himself all the more familiar with this September at WEC 43 in Youngstown, Ohio.
Henderson enters the bout on the heels of eight-straight wins, including two impressive showings in the WEC, trading in his second-round submission victory over Njokuani for a first-round comeback TKO victory against Shane Roller in his most recent fight.
In his fight against Roller this past April, the Arizona native showed his skill and desire to fight, when he appeared to be down and out after being knocked to the mat in the opening moments of the bout, only to reverse those fortunes and end up finishing the fight early in the first due to strikes.
The fight clearly displayed just what fans and WEC executives want, making Henderson the obvious choice when it came to viable contenders for the interim WEC lightweight strap.
Although Jamie Varner is still not quite out of the woods yet with some lingering injuries, the show (and title) must go on, as Henderson will square off against former title challenger Cerrone.
Though the prospects of fighting in the WEC are great in and of themselves, it is every fighters dream to be able to challenge for the title and “Smooth” will soon realize that dream, yet was caught off guard much like everyone else.
“I had no idea. I’m not gonna lie man. I was as blown away as most the fans were to read it, and I was blown away when they first told me,” he explained to the MMAWeekly Radio crew.
An ill fate, born with less than perfect vision, Henderson could normally be seen adorning his classy frames at the weigh-ins leading up to the fight. However, what may not be known to most was the fact that he did not use any other visual aids going into his fights and was essentially fighting impaired.
Going through the measures to correct his eyesight in order to perform and react more efficiently, a “new” Ben Henderson will be walking into the cage this September, against his most difficult challenge to date.
“I did have the eye surgery and it is a hundred times better. I can see now without my glasses. Its really amazing to be honest.
“It’s actually a huge difference. From my sparring, my boxing and my kickboxing, it adds a good half a second reaction time, to me just moving and slipping. A half a second is a long time to react to something, so it’s a huge difference.”
An honor in itself to be challenging for the title, Henderson will do so with a burden placed upon him, as he takes on good friend and fellow competitor “Cowboy” Cerrone, with the two having known each other since their days moving up the ranks and making a name for themselves in Denver.
“Me and Donald are buddies, he’s a friend of mine. We both kind of came up in Denver together. We both started our fighting careers right around the same time. It’s a little bit bitter sweet. I’m excited to fight for the title, fight a guy who has a big name and all that, but it does kind of suck that it is a buddy.”
Though the two having known full well of the potential of this occurring, the MMA Lab prospect will make sure that the possibility of victory will not be squelched with feelings of camaraderie and friendship when they battle for the coveted interim WEC title, which will later move on to be unified with reigning champion Jamie Varner, barring injuries.
“Me and Donald are both professionals, we’ve already talked about it and everything. We knew that there was a chance of us fighting in the WEC.
“Once that cage door shuts, were both gonna go out and set out for the ‘W.’”