Lightweight champion Henderson featured in WEC pay-per-view
By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Being the world champion has not changed life for Benson Henderson. “Everything’s pretty much the same, although I get spotted at the mall a little more,” said Henderson. The World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) Lightweight champion Henderson defends his first title against Donald Cerrone on April 24 in Sacramento, Calif.
Henderson, who grew up in Tacoma, became the champion of the WEC when he beat Jamie Varner on Jan. 10.
So what does a world champion do after winning the title? Henderson went to work, not in the gym, but at his mother’s store. Henderson flew back to work at Peter’s Grocery, a small convenience store owned and run by his mother.
He stepped in to give her some needed time off. “I worked a few shifts.” Henderson put in a 60-hour work week including a couple of 17-hour days stocking shelves and ringing up customers at the register. “It’s the least I can do,” he said, downplaying his shifts. Henderson attributes his work ethic to his mother, Song. She is Korean and his father is Black. His parents met when his father, who was in the Army at the time, was stationed in Korea. Song divorced Henderson’s father and raised Henderson and his older brother by herself. In addition, she worked several jobs to provide for her boys.
Proud of his Korean heritage, Henderson has tattoos in Korean. The tattoo on his right shoulder means champion, the one on his right rib cage means strength and honor, and the one on his left arm has his last name, Henderson.
Although most of his visit to the Northwest was focused on work, Henderson devoted time to visit the Space Needle and Pike Place Market with his mother and fiancée, Katherine. He met his fiancée in 2006 when he was asked by a friend to fly to Hawaii to help him prepare for a wrestling camp in Hawaii. Henderson got on a plane for the islands. While working out with his friend, he met his future wife. “She was a hula dancer,” Henderson said. They plan to marry in August in Hawaii.
Henderson’s status in the MMA world is well-respected. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight champion BJ Penn asked Henderson if he would train with Penn in preparation for his title fight last December. When Penn, a fellow Korean American, asked Henderson if he would like to train with him, he replied that he’d “stay [and train with Penn] until they would have to kick him out.” Henderson admits that training with Penn was demanding but that he learned a lot. “It was awesome,” Henderson said. He was impressed with Penn. “The devil is in the details,” Henderson said of Penn’s work ethic. “Watching, doing what he does makes him the best on the planet.”
A self-proclaimed “gym rat,” Henderson hangs around his training gym, the MMA Lab, in Glendale, Ariz. Even training for his first title defense, he teaches an occasional martial arts class at his gym.
Away from the gym, Henderson is an avid reader. He devotes a portion of his website to “Ben’s Book Club” — a collection of his favorite reads. A science fiction fan, Henderson is fond of writer Ben Bova’s series of books. “I got into reading [Bova] after a visit to the library. I started reading [one of his books], and I didn’t want to put it down.” A devout Christian, Henderson is a fan of Christian fiction books written by John Ringo.
The Henderson and Cerrone fight was voted by MMA website Sherdog.com as the Fight of the Year.
Henderson expects his rematch to be “more of the same” from their November 2009 fight. “The media overanalyze it,” Henderson remarked of the hype before the fight. “We’re going to see who has improved [since the last fight].” Henderson and Cerrone’s match will be featured as one of the main events of WEC’s first pay-per-view. ♦
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.