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Frustrated Benson Henderson after Bellator 183 loss: 'I need to stop having close fights'


Benson Henderson is tired of leaving his fights in the hands of the judges, and he’s vowed to do his best to make needed changes following his loss to Patricky Freire in the Bellator 183 main event.

Henderson (24-8 MMA, 1-3 BMMA) suffered a split-decision loss to Freire (18-8 MMA, 11-7 BMMA) in Saturday’s Spike-televised lightweight headliner – which took place at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., following prelims on MMAjunkie – dropping him to 0-3 in fights decided on the scorecards since he came to Bellator.

Prior to joining Bellator, the former UFC and WEC lightweight champion faired well in decisions, going a combined 10-2 in those promotions. The tables continued to turn on “Smooth” at Bellator 183, though, and he said he’s had enough.

“I think that either way, win or lose, I need to stop having close fights,” Henderson told MMAjunkie after his loss. “(People say), ‘Oh, it was kind of close, maybe you could have won, you could have lost.’ Like, those close fights are killing me. It’s always nice to win a close fight, win a close split decision, but just being in close decision, close split decision, split decision (all in a row) – those are just too close to have. You can’t have those. You have to have a better performance win or lose. You got to be in more decisive battles. It sucks.”

Henderson said he’s not sure exactly how to articulate what he needs to change in order to create a wider gap from the competition, but in his opinion, it largely comes down to activity.

“I think if I had a technical reason for it, maybe cage control or damage done while you have the cage control,” Henderson said. “Maybe the number of significant strikes thrown from cage control. You’ve got to find the way to word it, exactly. For whatever reason, earlier on, I was winning those really close decisions, and I’ll take it. Now I’m not winning close decisions, so I have to do better. I have to be better to get my hand raised in those close decisions.”

After leaving the UFC with a decorated resume and momentum on his side, it’s fair to say that Henderson’s Bellator tenure has not gone as planned so far. He said the outcomes of his fights have been largely discouraging but made it clear there’s no piece of him that’s being turned off from the sport or forcing him to consider giving up.

“When you get to a point where you’re losing and it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t sting and you’re like, ‘Oh, I lost another one; oh, well’ (then you should retire),” Henderson said. “This burns my soul. This does not feel good. It is burning inside. You have to learn who to deal with it. Learn how to accept it, take it like a man, and get better from it. In no way, shape or form, am I not highly upset. But I know if I tear a TV off the wall and smash it, it doesn’t do anything. It’s just all theatrics. I know on Monday I need to get back in the gym and work on getting better so I don’t have close decisions, period.”

One of Henderson’s primary goals when he moved to Bellator was to become the first fighter in MMA history to claim titles in the UFC, WEC and Bellator. His rough road has derailed his plans in the interim, but Henderson said he’s not deterred – he just hopes he can get back on track sooner than later.

“For me, it’s always get back in there right away,” Henderson said. “I’m pretty healthy. No black eyes or not beat up or too sore or nothing like that. I’d like to get back in there right away, but who knows what Bellator is going to say, match-wise, who I’m going to match up with next. That’s a whole spaghetti and pile of noodles I don’t want to worry about.

For complete coverage of Bellator 183, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

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