This past Friday night in the headliner of Bellator 292, we saw the conclusion to a Hall of Fame career. Former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson (30-12) took on current Bellator lightweight champion Usman Nurmagomedov (16-0).
In November, Henderson will turn 40-years-old. He’s been flirting with retirement for the past couple of years, but decided that he would go for one more run. Last January, he earned an upset win over Islam Mamedov which took him to free agency.
Opposed to opting for another promotion, 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 he fought out the deal he was done. If he lost before the deal was up, he would also retire.
The first fight of his new deal came last September in a headliner against Peter Queally in Dublin, Ireland. Henderson defeated the hometown fighter which earned him a spot in the Lightweight Grand Prix. He drew the current champion in his first fight and he knew it was going to be a tough challenge.
In the opening seconds at Bellator 292, Henderson got dropped by a head kick. He never got the chance to get going as Nurmagomedov would go on to submit him just halfway through the first round. After the loss, Henderson took off his gloves, laid them in the ring and announced his retirement.
Bellator’s Henderson rides off into the sunset
It’s been quite the career for Henderson, but at the same time, it feels like one that fell just a little short of his ultimate goal. All the way back in 2009, Henderson made his WEC debut. After two wins by stoppage, Henderson fought Donald Cerrone for the interim lightweight champion.
He would go on to win the title and then unify the belts against Jamie Varner. From there, he would defend for the first time against Donald Cerrone. After that 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. Following that, he would defend the title two more times against Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. He would then lose the title to Anthony Pettis in their rematch.
After losing his UFC title, Henderson went 4-2 in his next six bouts including two at welterweight. From there, Henderson hit free agency and made the huge decision to jump to Bellator. It was really one of the first times where a guy of that stature moved from the UFC to Bellator.
He immediately went into a welterweight title fight but ultimately lost. Henderson would spend his entire Bellator tenure bouncing between 155 and 170 tallying a record of 7-7 in fourteen bouts. Despite having a couple of opportunities, Henderson was never able to capture gold in the promotion.
That is the only area where his career fell a little short and I think he’d agree with that assessment. Nevertheless, his career is HOF worthy and it was an honor to watch it and cover it.