Albuquerque, N.M. — Former lightweight champion and perennial contender Benson Henderson has a main event fight this weekend when he steps into the cage opposite unheralded but tough-as-nails Rustam Khabilov.
At the media event today, Henderson, laid-back as always, spoke on several topics, but most notable was him announcing when he plans on walking away from his life as fighter.
"I know I'm going to retire when I'm 33," he said matter-of-factly. That gives the 30-year-old fighter roughly three more years to ply his trade inside the Octagon.
Henderson went on to say he knows he wants "his belt" back; also, he wants his second title run to be longer than his first. His first reign as UFC champion lasted approximately 22 months.
He captured the belt from Frankie Edgar at UFC 144 and relinquished it to Anthony Pettis at UFC 164. In between, Bendo successfully defended it against Edgar in an automatic rematch, Nate Diaz and former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez.
The loss to Pettis was especially tough, given their history.
Before displaying their excellence inside the Octagon, they were the top two lightweights in the WEC. The UFC purchased the smaller organization back in 2010 and Henderson vs. Pettis was the very last fight to be contested under the WEC banner.
Going into the fifth and final round of their title fight, with things square at two rounds apiece, Pettis somehow launched himself off the cage wall and landed a kick to the face of Henderson. While the kick was not damaging per se, it did create enough force to knock Henderson down, costing him the final round and his belt.
If Henderson is to follow through with his goal of regaining the belt, and holding it for longer the second time around, he will need to get cracking if he does in fact want to retire when he is 33.
First things first, Henderson will look to get the better of Khabilov on Saturday night. If successful, he'll need to take at least one more, if not two, fights before getting the opportunity to challenge for the title.
Champ Pettis faces off with the aforementioned Melendez, but not until the end of December.
Henderson is not thinking about that right now, though. He knows there are no promises in this sport and that the next step is the only one that matters.