Fans of African MMA, both in Africa and all over the world, were in an uproar last month when it was announced that Don Madge would challenge EFC Africa lightweight champion Costa Ioannou for the lightweight belt. In all my years in the game I’ve never seen so much interest generated for one fight so quickly, and with so much passion. Why? It seems that fans either feel Madge deserves the shot based on the huge promise he’s shown in the hexagon, or doesn’t, based on his record of 2-1 and being on a single win. This month we’ve decided to hit straight at the heart of this fight and asked all the players involved just that question: Is that fight legitimate, and more so, what, then, makes a fight? I think you’ll find the answers as revealing and insightful as I did.
Aside from one or two of his UFC lightweight rivals perhaps, it’s impossible to find anybody in mixed martial arts with a bad word to say about UFC champion Benson Henderson. The guy is a complete role model, 100% focused on his goals and also one of the most talented fighters ever to grace the Octagon.
Away from the cage, Henderson is anything but your stereotypical prizefighter. Religious, soft-spoken, and a martial artist in every sense of the word. That’s the Benson Henderson fans know. That’s the Benson Henderson we’ve all come to appreciate.
And yet there is a side to the champion that we don’t talk about. A side to Benson Henderson that’s not courteous, sympathetic, loving or even cheerful. It’s the side of Benson that wins at all costs, that trains until the blood and sweat can flow no more. It’s the side of Henderson that his 155lb rivals fear most, the Benson that only comes out to play when the Octagon door gets locked shut.
For this issue, Fighters Only caught up with Henderson at home in Arizona. We spoke candidly with the champion about his life, his upbringing, and what led him to a career in combat. Plus, we also talked exclusively with his older brother, Julian, who paints another picture of Benson, both one of honest inspiration yet also dogged by steely determination.
It’s a frank interview, and one that’s very different from the Benson we’ve all heard from before. He admits to an inner drive that knows no boundaries, a stubbornness to succeed that has no limits – all inspired by the beloved comic book superheroes that changed their own destinies by fighting fire with fire in the face of opposition.
This is the dark side of Benson Henderson, and after reading this issue your opinions on the UFC lightweight champion may never be the same again.
Also inside, Anthony Pettis takes his own swipe at Henderson ahead of his UFC bantamweight showdown with José Aldo, but admits Benson’s 155lb belt is his true long-term goal.