Should Benson Henderson Consider Moving Up to Welterweight?

Clinton BullockFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2013

Apr 20, 2013; San Jose, CA, USA; Benson Henderson prepares to fight against Gilbert Melendez (not pictured) during the lightweight championship bout of the UFC on Fuel TV at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

At UFC 164, Benson Henderson lost an electrifying and long-awaited matchup to his archrival, Anthony Pettis. He not only lost the bout, Henderson relinquished his championship belt in the process, and he squandered an opportunity to redeem his loss to the same opponent who stripped him of his first world title three years ago. 

On August 31, 2013, Henderson and Pettis fought at 155 pounds. The bout ended with an armbar submission four minutes and 31 seconds into the first round. Now, Henderson faces one of two options: remain at lightweight or transition to the heavier welterweight division.

At UFC 167, the current welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre, faces a dangerous and formidable opponent in Johny Hendricks. If the French-Canadian emerges victorious against the No. 1 contender on November 16, 2013, the champion may need new blood in the division to remain motivated.

Henderson has already expressed a great amount of interest in fighting St. Pierre in the past. In addition, UFC president Dana White recently rejected a third bout between Henderson and Pettis. Therefore, a move to the welterweight division may be a logical and sound decision for the former lightweight champion.


Henderson’s Call Out of Georges St. Pierre

Prior to losing his title to Pettis at UFC 164, Henderson gave light to a possible bout with the reigning welterweight champion. Leading up to his matchup against Gilbert Melendez at UFC on Fox 7. According to Shaun Al-Shatti of, Henderson said:

I want to fight in the biggest fights and against the best fighters. Georges St. Pierre is one of the greatest fighters in our sport's history. Of course I'd love to fight him, and I think the fans would want to see that fight too. It would be an honor to go up against such a great competitor, especially with a title on the line.

However, St. Pierre quickly rejected the notion of fighting Henderson. When speaking with earlier this year, the welterweight champion exclaimed that Henderson simply wished to amass popularity and fame by facing a more accomplished fighter, according to this report from Dave Doyle:

There are a lot of people who want to make money on pay-per-view, but only a few fighters who can do it. So, the quickest way to try to get one of those fights is to try to call out one of those fighters who can make money. It's a way to try to cut the line… There are other welterweight contenders on the way. Ben Henderson isn't a fight I'm thinking about right now.

Moving to the welterweight division would allow Henderson to legitimately earn a title shot and put an end to St. Pierre’s claims of line-cutting. A win against the champion would grant him the opportunity to become only the third fighter to hold a UFC championship in two different weight classes.  


No Henderson/Pettis III ... At Least Not Anytime Soon

At the UFC 164 post-fight conference, White exclaimed that another matchup between the two combatants would not take place. The UFC president stated:

Definitely, that is definitely the case. We had the fight with Ben and Frankie [Edgar] where some people thought he (Edgar) won; there’s no (expletive) denying who won this fight. It was a first-round annihilation. Kind of like the Vitor-Anderson thing.

Henderson’s first loss to Pettis occurred at WEC 53, three years ago. In a back-and-forth matchup, during the final moments of the last round, Pettis scaled the Octagon and delivered a spinning roundhouse kick to the face of the former champion. The maneuver, later dubbed the “Showtime Kick,” cemented the victory for Pettis, earning him his first world title.

Given Henderson’s yearning to face the welterweight champion, St. Pierre, and after suffering his second defeat to Pettis, it would behoove the former two-time world champion to transition to the 170-pound division.

If Henderson is able to capitalize off the opportunity, he may find himself challenging for his third world title against one of the greatest fighters of all time: Georges St. Pierre.