After Zuffa purchased Strikeforce, all the talk and media attention turned to the implications of such a historic buyout. The doors opened to a few superfights are impossible to walk by without more than a cursory glance.
However, there was a major merger that took place at the beginning of 2011 that has seemingly been all but forgotten. The WEC, one of the most exciting promotions in the history of MMA, folded into the UFC, bringing two new weight classes (bantamweight and featherweight), along with a number of lightweights.
One of those lightweights was Benson Henderson, who had just lost his 155-pound title in a five-round classic to Anthony Pettis.
Despite his, and many others, stellar credentials, more than a few media and fans outright dismissed him as a legitimate contender in the UFC's lightweight division.
In his first fight with the world's largest fight promotion, Henderson will take on Mark Bocek at UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields" on April 30, 2011, in Toronto. And as the "Smooth" one tells Luke Thomas of SBNation MMA, he's ready to prove he belongs.
"But I'm not going in there thinking of just WEC vs UFC. Speaking of that, we're not proving to the other fighters that we belong, it's more to the general fan base and to the reporters and media. It's more proving to you guys who are always saying "the WEC guys, there's no way they can hang with the UFC guys". The UFC guys, those are our training partners. Those are the guys we train with everyday, it's not like they don't see us when we train. I train with Kenny Florian, BJ Penn, Efrain Escodero, they're all in the UFC, so it's not like they're all like 'Oh no well he's tough and all but he's in the WEC so he's not any good.' I train with those guys so we have a mutual respect. So it's not really the fighters per se, who us ex-WEC are trying to prove ourselves to; it's more to the general fans who don't really know what's going on or don't really know a whole lot in depth what it means to be a fighter and the respect we have for each other. That's more who the ex-WEC fighters, that's where our chip on our shoulders is directed towards. Sure you can say that's your opinion, but now I'm gonna go in here and prove otherwise.
It's hard to argue against Henderson's accomplishments in the WEC. Two championships, two "Fight of the Night" awards, one "Submission of the Night" bonus and a 5-1 record overall.
That's pretty damn good, folks.
Critics immediately point to a lower level of competition, claiming "Bendo" was nothing more than a big big fish in a little bitty pond. How will he do once he's swimming with the sharks in the UFC?
If the past is any indication, he'll do just fine. But do you agree?
Any Maniacs out there thinking Ben Henderson is a legitimate contender at 155-pounds?