Sports

UFC: Benson Henderson looking for bigger things, but not past April 20 bout with Melendez

Decatur graduate Benson Henderson will take on Gilbert Melendez with his 155-pound UFC title on the line April 20 in San Jose. The fight will be nationally-televised on Fox Channel 13.  - File photo
Decatur graduate Benson Henderson will take on Gilbert Melendez with his 155-pound UFC title on the line April 20 in San Jose. The fight will be nationally-televised on Fox Channel 13.
— image credit: File photo

It’s obvious that Benson Henderson is getting comfortable being one of the best mixed-martial arts (MMA) fighters in the world.

The 2001 Decatur High School graduate will defend his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight championship belt for the third time April 20 in front of a national television audience at UFC on Fox 7 at San Jose’s HP Pavilion.

But Henderson has a lot more on his list of goals in the UFC than just beating Melendez, the 155-pound champion from rival organization Strikeforce.

Henderson has made it clear since he won the UFC title from Frankie Edgar in February 2012 that he wants to defend his belt a record number of times.

Currently, superstar Anderson Silva holds the UFC record for title defenses with 10 in a row.

Silva, who is recognized as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, is looking to extend that streak to 11 on July 6 against Chris Weidman.

“I’m going to continue to work hard to reach my goals,” Henderson told Bleacher Report. “Anderson is now at 10 title defenses, so my goal is to get 11. If he gets another title defense, then I’ll have to set my goal even higher. Those are the goals I set, and reaching that goal is not just about setting the record. Reaching that goal is about confirming I am the best fighter on the planet.”

Next month’s fight against Melendez will be Henderson’s third title defense and he claims that he won’t be looking past him in San Jose, a fight that will be televised on Fox channel 13.

“My main focus is on defending my title against Gilbert Melendez on April 20,” Henderson told MMAFighting.com in a statement. “That’s it.”

But Henderson did have time to call out another titan of the sport, Georges St. Pierre, last month. Henderson, the 155-pound champ, said he intends to request a super-fight against 170-pound champion St. Pierre following his title defense against Melendez.

“I see all this talk about super fights and other fighters getting to dictate what weight classes they want to move up and down to in order to get title shots,” Henderson told MMAFighting.com. “I’m the UFC’s lightweight champion and I feel I should be allowed to make such statements myself.

“Georges St. Pierre is one of the greatest fighters in our sport’s history. Of course I’d love to fight him, and I think the fans would want to see that fight too. It would be an honor to go up against such a great competitor, especially with a title on the line.”

But Henderson’s bold claim of wanting to fight St. Pierre was quickly dismissed by UFC President Dana White.

“That’s not going to happen,” White said. “He just won that title not too long ago. There are plenty of guys in the 155 division to defend that title against, and a possible fight with (Jose) Aldo if he moves up to 155... I don’t blame Ben Henderson for wanting to go to 170 that’s the big money fight.”

Aldo is the current 145-pound champion in the UFC and is fighting Anthony Pettis Aug. 3 and the thought is if Aldo wins, he will move to 155 to take on the lightweight champion.

Pettis is the last fighter to beat Henderson back in December 2011 in the final bout in the smaller World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) organization. Since then, Henderson (17-2 overall) is a perfect 6-0 in the UFC. Henderson held the WEC lightweight championship for over a year before having his 10-fight win streak snapped by Pettis.

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