Seconds after Ben Henderson defeated Frankie Edgar at UFC 144 this past weekend (Feb 25, 2012) in Japan, to earn his first-ever taste of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) gold, "Smooth" already had someone knocking at his door, ready to challenge him for his newly-won title.
That man, is none other than Anthony Pettis, the last man to defeat him back in 2010 in the now extinct World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) organization. The two lightweights scrapped for Benson's 155-pound title for a full five rounds in what was the final main event for the organization at WEC 53.
"Showtime" defeated "Smooth" in a back-and-forth brawl the saw Pettis deliver the kick heard around the world to seal the deal in the closing seconds of the bout.
Now, aside from taking his WEC belt, Pettis wants to be the man to snatch away his UFC lightweight title as well, but apparently, as he told MMA Fighting, Henderson does not feel that Anthony deserves a shot at his title just yet:
"I see you, you're doing big things and the way he does things, man he is spectacular, he does a lot of big things and moves. I think there's a line. I don't think he is first in line. I'm going to handle my business, you know, defend the belt a couple times. He's going to handle his business. I'm sure he'll get two or three more wins, maybe highlight reel wins, maybe sturdy wins against solid wrestlers where he can show and work on his take down defense or whatever. But he's going to do his thing and I'm going to do my thing. I'm sure well match up one day and I'm sure it will be for my UFC belt. I don't know if he'll be next, but I'm sure it will happen."
"Showtime," on the other hand, doesn't really see any other option for Henderson at the moment, but also stated that if he was in Benson's shoes, he'd probably avoid a rematch too.
After the jump, an exclusive first look at what Pettis told Pro MMA Radio about why Henderson doesn't want to fight him:
"If I was him, I would say the same thing too. I mean, he just won the belt and he doesn't want to give it up that quick and if he fights against me, he's not going to hold on to that belt for awhile, I mean, I match up bad for him, and for (him to say) for me to work on my takedown defense, last year he couldn't take me down and we went five rounds and I won that decision. So, if I was him, I wouldn't want to fight me either. Of course, he doesn't want to fight me, for that reason. There is no clear number one contender in the UFC (lightweight) division except myself. I mean Diaz is fighting Jim Miller, and that fight's a long time away. Let's set this up, let's see who's really number one in the lightweight division. I'm the last guy to beat him and I just had one of the best performances of my life, so let's make this happen. He definitely got a lot better, but I got a lot better too, everybody gets better in a year. I don't really see too big a changes, I don't think it's going to be one of those fights that where he's just going to come in and dominate."
The bout hasn't been made official and the tension, it seems, is already getting thicker by the minute.
The Duke Roufus-trained fighter blitzed his way up the top of the list of lightweight title contenders the same night Benson dominated Edgar for five rounds, as Pettis displayed yet again, his laser-like striking by knocking out Joe Lauzon in 81 seconds with a head kick that sent "J-Lau" tumbling down to the canvas.
He even followed it up with a few pinpoint punches for good measure.
With Nate Diaz and Jim Miller, the other top two 155-pound candidates for title consideration, set to tangle in a little over three months at UFC on Fox 3, it may behoove the new UFC lightweight champion to take the fight at hand against Pettis, rather than sit out for a possible seven to eight months.
Anyone feel Henderson is trying to avoid suffering the same fate to Pettis that he incurred at WEC 53? Or has Pettis yet to stake his rightful place as the legitimate number one contender to have first crack at attempting to dethrone the new champ?
Hear the entire interview with Pettis on this Thursday's edition of Pro MMA Radio.