UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson is a relatively reserved fighter outside of the Octagon, opting to approach things with humility rather than in an outspoken manner. However, Henderson has never shied away from stating his goals in MMA including a desire to eventually retire as the greatest competitor the sport has ever seen. With two successful title-defenses under his belt, Henderson has taken the first few steps on his journey towards in-ring immortality and will look to continue the trek in April when he faces Gilbert Melendez at UFC on FOX 7.
Though Melendez may be making his UFC debut, knowledgeable fans are familiar with the California native’s accomplishments including a number of successful outings as Strikeforce’s 155-pound king. Henderson is also aware of how apt an adversary Melendez is and, as he made clear in a statement to media on the upcoming clash, he expects a tough tilt even if he considers Melendez little more than the next guy in his way of an eventual spot in the Hall of Fame.
“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,” said Henderson. “Gilbert Melendez is one of the toughest fighters on the planet. 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.”
Another intriguing aspect of the match-up involves Melendez’s relationship with Nate Diaz, the very man Henderson defeated last month in dominating fashion at UFC on FOX 5. Melendez and Diaz have trained together for years and are close friends, often cornering one another in their respective rumbles. Henderson admitted the Diaz-Melendez connection could have an impact on his bout with “El Nino” but doesn’t worry about things he can’t control.
“Melendez trains with Nate Diaz, so I’m sure there will be some strategy shared in his camp from my last fight. I don’t concern myself with that, however,” explained the 18-2 Henderson. “I will have my own gameplan and it will be up to me to execute that. I can’t worry about how he will plan to fight me, only on how I plan to fight him.”
UFC on FOX 7 is scheduled for April 20 in San Jose, California.
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC/STRIKEFORCE