'Smooth' Operator: MMAmania.com WEC 48 interview exclusive with Ben Henderson

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At WEC 43 in October 2009, Ben Henderson and Donald Cerrone had a knock down, drag out five round war with the interim lightweight championship on the line.

When the dust settled many were calling in the best fight in all of MMA that year. Henderson walked away with the unanimous decision victory.

As the WEC shifts gears to its first pay-per-view card, it is only fitting to have the encore on center stage. This time, however, Henderson's lightweight belt he earned in a recent unification bout with Jamie Varner will be on the line.

It will all go down Saturday, April 24 at the WEC 48: "Aldo vs. Faber" event in Sacramento, California.

"Smooth" took some time out to discuss his thoughts on the recent Penn/Edgar title fight, possibly joining the UFC someday and how he would grade his ever improving stand-up game.

Check it out:

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What did you think of the BJ Penn / Frankie Edgar fight at UFC 112? Did you agree with the decision and why (or why not)?

Ben Henderson: I didn't agree with the decision/ I believe to beat the champ you have to take it from him. No disrespect to Frankie, but I didn't feel he did that. I believe BJ won the first three rounds.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Fans and pundits often speculate about how the top WEC lightweights like yourself would fare in the UFC. How do you think you would stack up in the UFC lightweight division & would you like to test yourself against their best someday?

Ben Henderson: Yes, I am very interested in seeing how I would stack up in the UFC lightweight division. My goal is to test myself against the best lightweights on the planet.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Let's go back to your recent win over Jamie Varner at WEC 46 that won you the lightweight championship. What was the general game plan you had going into the fight and did you execute like you had hoped? Were you happy with your overall performance?

Ben Henderson: The general game plan was to get the 'W' and that's exactly what we did. Was I satisfied? A little bit, but you can always do better.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Varner said this during his post fight interview:

"I wanted to box, he [Henderson] wanted to kick. S*** happens. I was winning the fight, all he was doing was throwing body kicks. I got the takedowns, had the control. He didn't want to box--go ahead and boo. I came to fight, Ben came to grapple. Two different things."

Did you feel disrespected at all by his comments? Was he being a sore loser?

Ben Henderson: No, I didn't feel disrespected at all by his comments. He's a grown man and fully entitled to his opinions.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Some champions put their belt on display at their gym, at home in a display case, or thrown in a closet somewhere. Where do you keep yours and why?

Ben Henderson: The WEC belt is hanging up on display at my gym MMA Lab, just cause really.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You're putting your title on the line against Donald Cerrone at WEC 48. It has been roughly six months since you both last fought. Do you feel like you have a grasp on everything that is in Cerrone's arsenal being that you have already fought 25 minutes with him?

Ben Henderson: I feel like I know Cerrone pretty well. Did he work on some new stuff? Most likely, and I'm sure it'll be on display on the 24th in Sacramento.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com):  Do you feel like you have improved as a fighter even in that short time span since you last fought Cerrone? If so, what specifically do you feel you have refined?

Ben Henderson: Yes, I feel I've improved. I would like to think in every facet of MMA.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Let's say I'm creating a WEC video game. On a scale of 1 - 10 what should I rate your overall stand-up game as at this point in your career?

Ben Henderson: Six.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You have this innate ability to escape deep submissions like you showed in your previous fight with Cerrone and also against Varner at one point. Some fighters panic when danger rears its head, but you always seem to weather the storm. What are the keys to getting out of a formidable submission attempt and why do you have so much success doing so?

Ben Henderson: Knowing the right technique to get out. I practice those techniques a lot.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): What is your official prediction for your upcoming fight?

Ben Henderson: My hand raised at the end.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): WEC 48 is the first card that fans will have to purchase. Do you like the idea of the WEC being on PPV? If so, why?

Ben Henderson: Sure, it brings some prestige and legitimacy to our lighter weight classes.

Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Any message you would like to pass along to your fans out there or any sponsors you would like to thank before we go?

Ben Henderson: First and foremost thank the Lord who sits most high. My mother, brother, and fiancée. All my friends and family at my gym, the MMA Lab, all my coaches and training partners, my manager, and MTX audio for taking the chance.

Derek Bolender is a frequent contributor to MMAmania.com. He is also a freelance writer who has contributed to outlets such as CBSSports.com, FoxSports.com, and SI.com in the past. Follow him on Twitter at @DerekMMAWriter.

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