15-2 lightweight Benson Henderson has yet to step into the Octagon with champion Frankie Edgar yet he’s already seen their fight play out countless times in his mind. Not only is visualization a part of his training but he also has a great deal of respect for Edgar, understanding how much concentration is needed on the talented title-holder to find the answer to “The Answer.”
Edgar is coming off of two brutal fights against Gray Maynard where, in both bouts, he was nearly finished in the first round only to show unbelievable resiliency in coming back to earn a Draw in the first go-round and a knockout victory in the second. By watching those wars Henderson has taken away a great deal of understanding about his upcoming opponent, a fact he revealed in an exclusive conversation with Five Ounces of Pain.
“The first thing I took away is that he does make mistakes and can be hurt,” stated Henderson matter-of-factly. “He got hurt very badly in both fights in the first round. He does leave openings and make mistakes. He has holes and there are opportunities where you can go after him and throw him off of his game. You also have to take away the fact that he has a huge heart, a very good chin, and a never say die attitude. That’s not something that should ever be discounted.”
With all the publicity surrounding his success in the UFC and his upcoming bout with Edgar, Henderson also has something else to be thankful for. Along with his coach he is now the proud owner of the only gym he has ever trained at, the MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona.
“It’s about 98-99% done, John Crouch and I purchased the gym from the old owners,” said an excited and proud Henderson. “We are not going anywhere; this is where I am going to be at for the duration of my career. In a few years time we plan on opening other affiliates around the country. This is home for me and we hope to offer opportunities to some young fighters in the area looking to make their way in the sport.
“I’ve got the same guys training with me that I had in the beginning,” the 28-year old continued. “For this fight I am bringing in UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz to lend us a hand. He’s a bit quicker and faster than I am. He can emulate Frankie and help me deal with the speed and footwork Edgar possesses. Other than that it’s all the same guys, a bunch of hungry guys trying to make a name for themselves.”
Being so confident in his abilities, Henderson uses visualization as a core component of his training. He puts himself in different scenarios, concentrating on how he can go about getting out of them. The technique also allows him to see himself with his hand raised when the fight is over and done with.
“Visualization is a big part of the mental aspect of my game,” offered Henderson. “I tend to use this three or four times a week. I will get in the cage and shadowbox all the while I am thinking about what I am going to do against my opponent. As the fight gets closer I will get into more specifics and imagine the walkout to the cage, hearing the crowd and the music.
“I will visualize my opponent making his way out to the cage and the Herb Dean or whoever the referee maybe giving us our instructions,” said Henderson, elaborating on what goes into the process. “I can actually hear ‘Big’ John (McCarthy) asking. ‘Are you ready? Are you ready? Let’s get it on!’ I will see how my opponent will react and how I counter his counters. The one thing I visualize is at the end of the fight and that is having my arm raised as the winner.”
The former WEC champion also envisions a fight similar to that in the minds of many others as far as a back-and-forth battle likely to earn Fight of the Night honors.
“This fight is going to be good,” explained Henderson. “It’ll be like two cats trapped inside of a bag. He’s a pretty aggressive fighter who moves a lot, but he remains very active and goes after it. He’s not a guy who will get on the bike and not engage. He moves around a lot, but comes to fight each and every time. We both have aggressive natures so you can expect us to get after it and put on a great fight.”
Henderson is a very confident fighter, but throughout the conversation let it be known he truly understands how important the people around him are to his success and how much they have helped him grow as both a human being and a fighter. He spoke very highly of his training partners and his coaches at the MMA Lab, showing that as incredibly skilled as he is he is also equally humble.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC