Sports

UFC: Melendez up next for Benson Henderson April 20 in San Jose

Decatur grad Benson Henderson finished 2012 with a perfect 3-0 record with the UFC lightweight title on the line and was named the
Decatur grad Benson Henderson finished 2012 with a perfect 3-0 record with the UFC lightweight title on the line and was named the 'Fighter of the Year.' He will fight Gilbert Melendez at UFC on FOX 7 in San Jose on April 20.
— image credit: Courtesy of UFC

It's been a whirlwind of month for Benson Henderson.

The 2001 Decatur High School graduate defended his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight championship with a dominating win over Nate Diaz inside Seattle's KeyArena Dec. 8, was named the UFC's Fighter of the Year and, late last week, inked a new eight-fight deal to continue in the UFC.

It was also announced Tuesday that Henderson would be defending his 155-pound title against Gilbert Melendez April 20 on national television in San Jose. Henderson and Melendez will be the main event at UFC on FOX 7 at the HP Pavilion in the Northern California city. San Jose is Melendez's hometown. Melendez is the lightweight champion of the recently folded Strikeforce fight promotion.

This will be the third time that Henderson will be fighting on national television. He beat Clay Guida at the inaugural UFC on FOX 1 event in Anaheim and defended his title last month with a win over Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 5 in Seattle.

“I am beyond thrilled to be competing again on network TV for the UFC on FOX 7 card against Gilbert Melendez,” Henderson said in a statement. “It’s an honor to be put in this position by both the UFC and FOX executives, who are placing trust in me to be able to deliver another exciting fight on live TV. The fans can expect to see a lot of action from two fighters who have aggressive styles. It should be a fun night."

Melendez (21-2) has been nursing a shoulder injury and hasn't fought since May, when he beat Josh Thomson in a split decision. Melendez was supposed to fight in September, but an injury kept him from the card and, again, on Strikeforce's final card earlier this month, but the shoulder problems kept him off the card.

“Gilbert Melendez is one of the toughest fighters on the planet," Henderson said. "I’ve said over and over that I just want to fight the best in the world. I don’t care in what order I face them, but I want to fight the best in the biggest fights. He has been the Strikeforce lightweight champion, and is going to be real hungry in his first UFC fight.”

Henderson (18-2, 6-0 UFC) is coming off a unanimous decision win over Diaz in Seattle and will be the first UFC fighter to headline two nationally-televised FOX Television cards.

Malki Kawa, Henderson's manager, announced last weekend that Henderson inked the new eight-fight deal with the UFC. Kawa has refused to discuss the details of the new contract, he did say that it's a fair deal and that Henderson "stands to make a lot of money."

“It’s a testament to his value to the UFC,” Kawa said in a statement, “and as a fighter that is able to deliver on the big stage. Beating Gilbert would prove that Benson is absolutely the best lightweight in MMA.”

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