Local mixed martial arts champ visits with fans

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Mixed martial arts is a combat sport that continues to take the world by storm. Inside that maelstrom is Benson Henderson. He lives and trains here in Arizona and just earned the title champion.

Henderson's fame has been rising in the sport for several years and now he is the star.

“It's a lot of vindication, validation as to choosing this crazy career,” Henderson said Wednesday evening.

The 28-year-old signed autographs and took pictures with hundreds of fans at his gym, MMA Lab in Glendale. They came to shake hands with fighting royalty and talk to the man who won the belt just 11 days ago.

“When you are at that elite level, a championship or close to it, can it be anyone's match?” I asked.

“It really can,” he said.

Placing his thumb and forefinger almost together he continued, “When you are at that the level the mistakes go from here to mistakes this big. The margin for error is this big.”

Henderson was ready when he got his chance. Now everyone is looking to take it from him, including the previous owner, Frankie Edgar.

“The rematch is on for late July or early August and we're going to run it back,” he said. “Fine by me.  As the guy having the belt you don't get to choose who you fight, it's more about who they place in front of you.”

Henderson's politeness and gracious nature with fans belies the brutal nature of his sport. He calls it a job, one that he loves and he will do as long as he can.

“Run this body hard for the next two or three years, but as soon as I turn 32, 33, I'll probably be done,” said Henderson with a chuckle. “Time to relinquish the belt, pass it on before some young punk gets it.”

Henderson returned from a world media blitz last week after winning the championship and still competed in a local jujitsu tournament on Sunday.