Sports Update 

Reflecting on Benson Henderson’s legacy after his retirement at Bellator 292

Lucas Noonan | Bellator MMA

Last Friday night at the Bellator 292 headline, we saw the Hall of Fame career finale. Former UFC and WEC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson (30-12) took on current Bellator Lightweight Champion Usman Nurmagomedov (16-0).

In November, Henderson will be 40 years old. He’s been flirting with retirement for the past two years, but decided to go for another run. This past January, he had an upset win over Islam Mamedov which prompted him to release from agency.

Opposing another promotion’s selection, Henderson re-signed with Bellator looking to make one final run at the title. However, he made it clear to his inner circle that once the deal was done it was done. If he loses before the deal is done, he will also retire.

The first fight of his new deal came this past September in a headlining title against Peter Colley in Dublin, Ireland. Henderson defeated his hometown fighter earning him a spot in the Lightweight Grand Prix. He drew the current champion in his first fight and knew it was going to be a tough challenge.

In the opening seconds at Bellator 292, Henderson was knocked down by a jab. He never had a chance to get going as Nurmagomedov would continue his submission midway through the first round. After the loss, Henderson took off his gloves, put them in the ring, and announced his retirement.

Henderson rides off Bellator’s into the sunset

It’s been quite the career of Henderson, but at the same time, it feels like he fell just short of his ultimate goal. All the way back in 2009, Henderson made his WEC debut. After two stoppage wins, Henderson fought Donald Cerrone for the interim lightweight champion.

He would go on to win the title and then unite the belts against Jamie Varner. From there, he would make his first defense against Donald Cerrone. After this defense, he was dethroned by Anthony Pettis before making the jump to the UFC.

After three straight wins to start his UFC career, Henderson fought Frankie Edgar for the title. He won and then won the rematch. After that, he would defend the title two more times against Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. He then loses the title to Anthony Pettis in a rematch.

After losing his UFC title, Henderson went 4-2 in his next six fights including two at welterweight. From there, Henderson hit free agency and made the big decision to jump to Bellator. It was truly one of the first times a man of this stature moved from the UFC to Bellator.

He immediately went into a fight for the welterweight title but lost in the end. Henderson would spend Bellator’s entire tenure bouncing between 155 and 170 achieving a 7-7 record in fourteen games. Despite having two chances, Henderson never managed to take the gold medal in the pitching.

This is one area where his career has failed a bit and I think he would agree with that assessment. However, his career is HOF worthy and I have had the privilege of watching and covering it.

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