Sports

UFC: Benson Henderson ready to 'get his due' against Diaz Saturday

Benson Henderson works out for fans and media during the UFC on FOX open workouts on Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt Seattle.  - Photo by Josh Hedges of the UFC
Benson Henderson works out for fans and media during the UFC on FOX open workouts on Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt Seattle.
— image credit: Photo by Josh Hedges of the UFC

Benson Henderson has never fought in his home state of Washington — literally.

The reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion will get that chance Saturday night in front of a national television audience at the UFC on Fox 5 event at a sold-out KeyArena in Seattle. Henderson, a 2001 Decatur High School graduate, will take on the No. 1 155-pound contender in Nate Diaz with the lightweight belt on the line.

"We are both pretty aggressive," Henderson said at Thursday's press conference at KeyArena. "He likes to come forward and I like to come forward. Once we get inside the octagon it's going to be fun."

The UFC on Fox 5 main card at KeyArena also includes Brazilian Mauricio “Shogun” Rua against Swedish prospect Alexander Gustafsson and former two-division champion and one of the UFC's all-time greats, B.J. Penn, battling rising Canadian talent Rory MacDonald. The UFC on Fox 5 telecast starts at 5 p.m.

"I have not been this excited for a fight in a long time," UFC President Dana White said Thursday. "The baddest fight ever on free television."

According to Henderson, the fact that he's fighting for the first time in his former hometown in front of friends and family won't be a distraction. Henderson grew up in Federal Way before moving to the Phoenix area to live and train after college.

"I think leading up to the all my fights, I try to take everything in stride," Henderson said Thursday. "All my friends and family know that I'm getting ready for a fight. But this one I will have a ton of old high school buddies and my cousin's cousin's cousin's have been hitting me up for tickets. But everyone has been pretty understanding and they know this is a big thing coming up."

Henderson hopes a win over Diaz in the main event on national television will propel him into one of the big names in the UFC. Despite being the UFC champion since February and beating the popular Frankie Edgar twice, Henderson is still relatively unknown.

"I don't think he's had his due yet," White said Thursday. "He had some close fights. But this is the fight for him. Diaz is mean and nasty. If he wins this fight, he should finally start getting the respect he's due."

Henderson (16-2 overall) is a perfect 5-0 in the UFC since moving over from the smaller World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) organization. Henderson held the WEC lightweight championship for over a year before having his 10-fight win streak snapped by Anthony "Showtime" Pettis in December 2011.

Since the loss to Pettis, Henderson has steamrolled four of the UFC’s top contenders in very impressive fashion.

He beat Canada’s Mark Bocek by unanimous decision in front of 55,000 fans in Toronto in April 2011. Henderson then stopped Jim Miller’s seven-match UFC win streak in August before winning another unanimous decision over Clay Guida in November at UFC on FOX in Anaheim. He then beat Edgar at UFC 144 in Japan to win the UFC 155-pound title and won the rematch Aug. 11.

Henderson, 29, began his wrestling career during his time at Lakota Middle School and continued wrestling at Decatur, where he competed under head coach Mike Bressler.

He went on to wrestle at Dana College in Nebraska and actually started MMA fighting a year after a dare from a couple of wrestlers, but has never fought in Washington.

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