Benson Henderson skeptical of Michael Chandler’s ‘knockout warrior’ self-assessment

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Benson Henderson doesn’t have many losses on his resume, but Friday he’ll have the opportunity to redeem one.

Headlining Bellator 243, Henderson will face former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler in a rematch of their 2016 bout. That night, Chandler defeated Henderson by split decision.

Wednesday, Henderson (28-8 MMA, 5-5 BMMA) told MMA Junkie he’s never been interested in rematches. However, his loss to Chandler (20-5 MMA, 17-5 BMMA) hasn’t sat well with him. Henderson is convinced the judges scored it wrong.

“I think because it was such a close, controversial split decision, everyone kind of knew there was going to be a rematch,” Henderson said. “Whether I win or lose, I never really want a rematch. We’ve been there. We’ve done that before. Let’s move on. I’m not going to look back. I’m looking forward, but I did think there probably would be a rematch at some point in time. Here we are. After that fight when the judges gave it Chandler, I was like, ‘Oh, I want to get my hands on you again and I’m going to make it hurt.’”

In a recent promotional video run during Bellator 242, Henderson and Chandler bickered back-and-forth in a split-screen interview hosted by Bellator commentator Mike Goldberg. The argument made the rounds on social media and centered around a prediction Henderson made, saying Chandler would look to use his wrestling.

When reminded about the short spat, Henderson elaborated on where those comments were coming from when he made them.

“The last couple fights he didn’t rely on wrestling, he got knocked out,” Henderson said. “You don’t have the same chin. (When) you have a long career, you test your chin a whole lot. (When) you wow the crowd and yadda, yaddda, yadda, that chin does not stay there for your entire career. I think he was not speaking untruths, but he wasn’t being totally honest with his assessment of a knockout warrior who is still looking for knockouts every fight and all that sort of stuff.”

To the average person, Henderson expects it will seem like he and Chandler are similar fighters to who they were in 2016. However, to the more trained eye, Henderson thinks both him and Chandler are technically improved.

“For the casual fan, you might see the exact person,” Henderson said. “Do I think Chandler has gotten better? Probably, for sure. He’s a consonant professional. He’s always working on his craft and trying to get better. I’m the same way. I’m always trying to get better to improve. To the casual fan, they might see the same thing. But for the students of the game, they see a small difference here. … When you’ve been around for so long, the improvement area gets smaller and smaller.”

With a win at Bellator 243, Henderson, the former UFC and WEC lightweight king, thinks he’ll take one more step to his ultimate goal of getting title gold wrapped around his waist once again.

“For me, the whole reason that I fight is to be the best on the planet – to have a belt around my waist and be the best on the planet,” Henderson said. “I want that Bellator belt around my waist. I want that belt. It’s not really up to me. It’s up to the higher up. It’s above my pay grade. For me, it was announced officially from Bellator that the winner of this will get a title shot next.

Bellator 243 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The main card simulcasts on DAZN and Paramount Network after prelims on MMA Junkie.

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