Bellator 196 “Henderson vs. Huerta” comes to Budapest Sports Arena in Budapest, Hungary on April 6, 2018. The card is headlined by two Lightweights looking to rebound to top form as Benson Henderson (24-8) takes on “El Matador” Roger Huerta (24-9-1, 1 NC).
The way this fight together is as much of a story as the fight itself. Budapest was set to receive a James Gallagher (7-0) vs. Adam Borics (6-0) main event, but Gallagher suffered a hand injury which shuffled Borics to co-main event status with a replacement opponent.
It wasn’t much of a surprise to bring in Henderson as an established star with name value now taking his fifth Bellator fight, but unfortunately he’s 1-3 in four bouts to date. Huerta left a largely successful run in UFC to jump to Bellator, but he too languished at 1-2 before making the jump to ONE Fighting.
In today’s interview Benson Henderson talks about accepting the bout with Huerta, his plans for the future in Bellator MMA, and even how the fight would have looked nine years ago in WEC or UFC.
“I’d say if we were matched up nine years ago that’d be pretty rough, because I was just starting out.”
Give yourself more credit sir. 2009 was when you beat Donald Cerrone for the WEC interim lightweight title, pocketing a $20,000 Fight of the Night bonus in the process.
“I’ve been fighting for ten years now. I remember watching Roger Huerta in his friggin’ — who was he fighting when he had great slugfest that was like fight of the decade, fight of the year or whatever it was?”
To answer his question I came up with another Fight of the Night bonus winner — Huerta’s TUF 6 Finale with Clay Guida.
“Yeah Guida, Guida yeah! And that’s what got him the SI cover too right?”
That would have been the UFC 69 fight with Leonard Garcia.
“Yeah I think I was just barely starting, maybe I might have been still in college or just barely starting out so... I think he would have beat the TAR out of me then! So I’m glad it took nine years to let me grow my skill set and get good and stuff. Now I think the timing is perfect. Nine years ago when I was just starting out it would have been a rough night for me.”
Imagine telling a MMA legend that he’s not only better than he believes but that he’s been fighting longer than he thinks. Moving on from that I asked Henderson who needs the win more in Budapest.
“I think we both need this win! I’m coming off two losses in a row right? That’s a weird spot for me. I think it’s only ever happened once in my career before. I hope it never happens again. I would say I need it for sure bad, (and) he needs it for sure bad. I know he’s all in with his chips on not signing a long term deal but taking a one fight deal. From some of the headlines I’ve read (he’s) taking a one fight deal so that he can get a bigger multi-fight contract. That’s a gambler right there!”
The gambling started when James Gallagher withdrew from the original main event, leaving a hole Bellator decided only Henderson and Huerta could fill. Henderson had other cards on the table though.
“They threw me a couple of names. Like oh yeah, that’s what I’m here for. You guys signed me for big name fights and for short notice fights, that was part of our thing. You guys know I’m always good for short notice. So they hit me up with a couple of different names — Derek Anderson, Brandon Girtz, Mike Chandler, this date in Budapest or this date in St. Louis, and this and that against everybody.”
A split decision win at Bellator 165 left Chandler wondering who the better man was, and given he promised to run it back with Henderson again, it’s not surprising Henderson feels the same way.
“I’m fully of that same mindset good sir! I think I definitely want to get my hands on him again. I think it was his choice on his opponent and he chose who he chose. They asked me, I said yes, so you know I’m game for it — but it is what it is.”
And interestingly enough Chandler chose Girtz, one of the same men Henderson was offered. Until that potential rematch can be made between the two Henderson is preparing for a war with “El Matador.”
“I think (Huerta) has a wealth of knowledge and wealth of experience. I think he’s really good in that sense. I think that he does a good job of putting it all together. A lot of guys have a hard time doing that. I think he’s just as explosive, just as skilled as he was before. I think the holes he leaves (in his game) are some of the same holes as before, and it’s gonna be my job to make sure I capitalize on those holes that he leaves open and take advantage of them.”
Mentioning those holes made me wonder if Henderson had seen Huerta’s bouts in ONE Fighting.
“Watching some of his fights from there, I was definitely able to pick up a few things. But I watched the fights mostly like just one time, one time through to get eyeballs on him, watch how he moves, get a feel for him. But my coaches are the ones - John Crouch my head coach at the MMA Lab and then Eddie Cha the stand-up coach at the MMA Lab - those guys are the ones who watch his fights three, four, five, six seven times in a row. I kind of leave it up to them and then they tell me what to do and we work on it from there.”
With a team of analysts behind him giving him strategy and advice for the fight, all that’s left for Henderson now is to pack his bags for Budapest and catch a flight.
“First time in Budapest will be interesting. See how it plays out, see what kind of stores they have as far as my dietary needs go. Most of the times when I fight out of the country, not just MMA but jiu-jitsu and all that sort of stuff, I tend to bring everything with me just in case. I tend to be more on the conservative side and bring all of it with me. I’ll bring a whole week of food with me to Budapest to make sure what I have it is I need to have for keeping down the weight but still taking in calories.”
Hopefully nobody jacks his meals in transit. We look forward to seeing what “Smooth” Ben Henderson and Roger Huerta do in the main event of Bellator 196.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Henderson vs. Huerta” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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