UFC 144’s Ben Henderson talks Anthony Pettis kick and more

“I’m still not over it. I won’t lie to you,” Henderson said. “I still get teary-eyed thinking about it. It affects me deeply to this day. It will affect me for the rest of my fighting career, for a long, long time. I’m very upset about it still. I can put it behind me, but am I totally over it, never think about it? No.”

“It was heart-wrenching,” he said. “I was sad, and I’m still sad. It was heart-breaking. …Every time I’m out there, I give you guys everything. I open up my heart and soul. I hold nothing back. To come up short, and to come up short in that manner, that hurt. But I’ll never let that happen again.”

He told himself, didn’t Georges St. Pierre have to see clips of himself getting TKO’d by Matt Serra over and over again? Didn’t it only make him stronger in the end?

“It’s the same thing for me. I’ve had to see that kick hundreds and thousands of times. I have to talk about it over and over and over. But I’m using it. I’m using it to make myself better.”

And he has. Even former foes like Pettis — who will be forced to watch from the UFC 144 undercard this weekend as Henderson gets a crack at UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in Tokyo — can admit that.

“After our fight, he changed as a fighter,” Pettis said. “He’s hungry. You can see it on his face, he’s ready to win this fight.”

Henderson will tell you now that, despite the heartbreak of the moment, in the long run the loss was “absolutely beneficial to my career.” He didn’t overreact the way some fighters do after a painful defeat, dumping all their coaches and making cosmetic changes in an attempt to fix a problem they haven’t even truly diagnosed yet.

“But I think what I did change was my approach during the fight,” he said. “I think against Pettis, the biggest thing I took away was that I was not aggressive enough. I didn’t have enough ring control. I think I did fine in the fight, landed more strikes, all that. But the problem was, I think I was backing up too much.”

“I can’t leave any doubt. There’s going to be no doubt in anyone’s mind after they watch one of my fights as to who won the fight.”

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