Benson Henderson hopes revenge is sweet.
The Decatur High School graduate will get a chance to avenge his only professional mixed-martial arts (MMA) loss Aug. 31 when he defends his UFC lightweight title against Anthony "Showtime" Pettis.
The fight will be the main event at UFC 164 inside the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, which happens to be Pettis' hometown. Henderson was supposed to defend his lightweight championship against TJ Grant in Milwaukee, but Grant was forced to withdraw Friday after suffering a concussion during a training session.
The Henderson-Pettis fight will be a rematch of their classic World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) title showdown in December 2010. Pettis won that fight by unanimous decision to take the belt from Henderson.
The loss was the low point of Henderson's stellar MMA career. Following the fight, Henderson sat on a stage in front of reporters inside the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz., weeping.
The heart-breaking defeat, which included a highlight-reel kick by Pettis and ended a 10-fight winning streak, looked like it would derail Henderson’s promising career.
But fast forward two and a half years and things couldn’t be better for Henderson. After moving into the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) following the Pettis loss, Henderson’s career is back on the fast track.
Henderson won the UFC 155-pound title in February 2012 by beating Frankie Edgar in Japan. Since then, he has defended his belt three times with wins over Edgar in a rematch, Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. Since joining the UFC, Henderson is a perfect 7-0 and 19-2 overall.
Pettis was scheduled to face featherweight champion Jose Aldo in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 3, but had to pull out of the bout with a knee injury. But his knee began healing faster than expected and Pettis asked UFC officials to let him fight Henderson.
"Words can't describe it," Pettis told Bleacher Report on Saturday after accepting the fight with Henderson. "You couldn't write a better story. You can’t say no when the UFC calls, especially for a title shot.”
Pettis (16-2) has won three fights in a row since losing to Clay Guida in his first fight in the UFC. He reclaimed the No. 1 contender position with a first-round knockout of Donald Cerrone on Jan. 26.
Henderson, 29, began his wrestling career during his time at Lakota Middle School and continued wrestling at Decatur. He went on to wrestle at Dana College in Nebraska and started MMA fighting a year after a dare from a couple of wrestlers.
"He's the champion, he better be (excited). He's the guy that everybody wants, he's the No. 1 guy in the lightweight division. I don't see him being too worried about it. I'm sure he's confident, he's on a winning streak, but I know that has to be in his head," Pettis stated. "This is the last guy that beat him in my hometown. He's either seeking revenge, or he's worried; I don't know which one it is."