It’s been almost exactly 10 months since Benson Henderson last stepped foot in a Bellator cage after losing a heartbreaking split decision to Michael Chandler in a lightweight title bout last November.
Since then, Henderson dealt with a knee injury that kept him out of action until just recently when he got back into action with a grappling match before booking his return to mixed martial arts this weekend with a fight scheduled against Patricky ‘Pitbull’ Freire in the main event at Bellator 183.
In his time away, Henderson may not have been around but the Bellator lightweight division has changed dramatically — most notably by the change in champions after Brent Primus shocked the world with a victory over Chandler back in June.
Henderson may have been out of action himself but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t paying attention to the landscape at 155-pounds and the new champion who still needs an opponent for his first title defense.
“I think [Brent] Primus did a great job. I think a lot of people didn’t take him too seriously and he went out there and had a great game plan, he had a great performance against [Michael] Chandler,” Henderson said about the new Bellator lightweight champ when speaking to MMAWeekly. “That’s what we’re trying to do — beat up one certain area of a fighter until they can’t fight anymore and that’s what he did against Chandler. He went out there and beat up one part of Chandler and Chandler couldn’t go anymore.
“I won’t say 155 is wide open but any time there’s a new champion, things get freshened up a little bit. I think guys are excited about the change in the guy who has the belt.”
Of course Chandler will have something to say about Primus fighting anybody other than him following the strange way their fight ended with a leg injury in the first round. Primus credits his attacks on Chandler’s leg that led to the injury while the former champion contends that it was a freak occurrence that had nothing to do with what his opponent was doing that night in the cage.
Either way, Henderson can’t concern himself with the politics surrounding the lightweight title picture other than putting himself into a position where he could make a legitimate argument that he should be next.
“I want to get my shot, my crack against Primus,” Henderson said. “I know it comes down to what I can control. I can’t control matchups, I can’t control about this or that, who they’re going to give the fight. What I can control is my performance inside the cage and having an impressive win against “Pitbull”. I think if I dictate and I go out there and do what I need to do and get a stoppage against “Pitbull”, whether it’s a knockout or a submission, but if I look impressive then I think I get a title shot.
As much as Henderson would like another shot at the Bellator title, he has to get through ‘Pitbull’ this weekend or his championship hopes will go up like a cloud of smoke.
After the long road back from injury, Henderson is more than ready for the challenge, especially after facing ‘Pitbull’s brother just two fights ago. While Henderson understand that every challenge is different from another, the ‘Pitbull’ brothers have maintained a very similar style to each other over the years and he believes that gives him a great advantage going into the fight.
“He has a pretty similar style to his brother,” Henderosn said about ‘Pitbull’. “They like throwing the same combinations. They like throwing the same counters to certain moves. His brother is a little quicker, a little faster on his toes. The big “Pitbull” has a little more power in his hands, fights a little more flat footed, but they are pretty similar fighters. Same coaches, same training partners, they move similarly.
“They’re not the same fighter but they are about as similar as you can get in the MMA world.”
In a perfect world, Henderson would dispatch ‘Pitbull’ inside the distance and then he’ll be staring right at Primus and that lightweight title as his next quest inside the Bellator cage.