Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 12/10/12
SEATTLE -- On the biggest stage the sport has ever had, at the final show of the UFCs inaugural year on FOX, after a dominating five-round victory to keep his lightweight belt, Benson Henderson grabbed the microphone in the middle of the Octagon and said this: Seattle! Key Arena! I can do all things through Christ! It was just as powerful of a statement as Hendersons relentless victory over fellow 155-pounder Nate Diaz that solidified Hendersons spot as the king of the UFCs deepest division. Again and again, Henderson kept taking the normally elusive Diaz to the ground. He knocked him back with elbows and landed a first-round punch to Diazs right eye that blurred Diazs vision for the rest of the fight. He bounced around the Octagon with as much energy in the final round as he did in the first, his Troy Polamalu-esque hair getting in his eyes and a toothpick a toothpick! lodged inside his mouth. This was a moment for gloating. Benson Henderson would have been excused if he took the microphone and told the world he was the greatest. We all would have understood if he sniped at the doubters who werent impressed with his past two fights, razor-thin decision victories over Frankie Edgar. We would have looked past it if Henderson had ripped on Diaz, who had flipped Henderson the bird twice in the middle of the fight. But Benson Henderson did none of those things. Instead, he pointed at the crowd and spread his arms, displaying the giant angel-wing tattoo on his back. He looked toward his tiny Korean mother in the front row and bowed at her. He spoke about how he was fighting with a heavy heart because his best friends mother was just diagnosed with lymphoma and a business partners 17-year-old son had just died in a hiking accident. What Benson Henderson did after retaining his lightweight belt was just as impressive as what he did against Nate Diaz. He was himself. He was a humble, God-fearing, polite young man. And he showed the national television audience that this sport, once derided as human cockfighting, has undergone an image shift that shows its fighters as human beings good, kind, respectful human beings and not barbarians. At a time when mixed martial arts has become the fastest-growing sport in the world and the UFC has moved into the mainstream, having champions like Benson Henderson is exactly what the UFC needs. It makes you realize I love fighting, but theres a lot more important stuff than fighting, guys, Henderson said of the recent tragedies for his two friends. I just wanted to take the time and reiterate that and tell the world. Show some love. Hug up on (your kids). Cherish the time you have. You never know. His son was 17 years old. It hit him hard. It hit me hard. It was real. It was heartwarming. And the amazing part is that if you look at the state of the UFC right now, youll see plenty of prominent fighters who are just like Henderson: incredible athletes and kind, pleasant, likable people. The light-heavyweight champ, Jon Jones, is a soft-spoken son of a preacher who has a Bible verse tattooed on his chest. You would be hard-pressed to find a more respectful, polite man than welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre. Light-heavyweight contender Vitor Belfort is one of the sports most vocal Christians. As the UFC keeps growing, it does so through winning over people who never thought they could be UFC fans. Fighters such as Benson Henderson not Nate Diaz, with his prominent middle fingers are what the sport needs at the top. Just before the Henderson fight began, the wife of my college roommate a big sports fan who has always said she despises the brutality of the UFC posted about the sport on Facebook. Just realized Ive spent the last two hours watching UFC fighting, she wrote. I am strangely drawn to it. It was with the same sort of surprise that I had my own UFC conversion a year ago. Id avoided watching UFC because I thought of it as cage-fighting -- brutal, uncivilized activity that seemed better paired with the testosterone-fueled soap operas of pro wrestling than with a real sport, like football. The first fight I saw was Jon Jones light-heavyweight title defense against Rampage Jackson last year. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the sport, especially as practiced by a true artist such as Jones. Yes, its violent. But I was more struck by the humility and the respect the fighters often show, a nod to the sports roots in Eastern martial arts. Soon, I no longer called it cage-fighting. I called it mixed martial arts, a ballet-like sport of beauty and endurance. I thought of the UFC as an organization more and more of the best athletes on earth are gravitating toward, the truest test of who is the toughest man. There is no getting over the fact that, as Henderson sat on the stage at the post-fight news conference, B.J. Penn, whod lost to up-and-coming Rory MacDonald in a beatdown earlier in the night, was at a local hospital for observation. Theres no way of getting around the violence and the primal feelings that a combat sport generates. But theres also something powerful about the UFC lifting up its champions as not just amazing athletes but admirable -- not to mention marketable -- people. For me, its more a daily walk, Henderson said of his faith. Its what I do every day, not putting on a show. Its more about your daily walk with the Lord. Im not afraid to wear it on my sleeve. Henderson shrugged. His walkout song was a gospel song titled Awesome God, by R-Swift. Some people find the mix of combat sports and Christian faith to be odd. Henderson does not. Some guys need death metal music, he said. Some guys need gospel music. And that, metaphorically speaking, is exactly what the UFC needs: more gospel music.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: Clippers intent on keeping both Blake Griffin, Chris Paul

Slam dunks and startups: How all-star technology took over the NBA in The Big Easy

Report: Tyrod Taylor might not be released by Bills after all

Juventus and Manchester City begin their Champions League Round of 16 campaigns

Cardinals reportedly have ‘zero interest’ in Jay Cutler

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

DeSean Jackson talks up return to Eagles

DeMarcus Cousins links to Lakers won’t just go away

Pats willing to trade Garoppolo for 'at least' first-rounder?

NFL executive: Davis Webb will be top QB of draft

Report: Knicks making Derrick Rose ‘completely available’ at trade deadline

NBA exec: Paul George to Celtics could be 'sleeper' trade

'Playmakers' in Ice Cube's league who can help the Cavs

Box Score 2/21: It's trade heartbreak season

The 'Did the Kings just make the Pelicans into a super team?' quiz

The guard tandems you'd want in a 2-on-2 tournament

We got our hands on the new Nintendo Switch, here are our first impressions

Top 10 second basemen in baseball for 2017

Teams and players who could be dealing at the NBA trade deadline

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Movies you can stream now to get your football fix

Too much to Process: Can Simmons match the Embiid hype?

There will never be another Dirk Nowitzki

MMA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

'Playmakers' in Ice Cube's league who can help the Cavs

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win 100 games with two different teams

The 'Did the Kings just make the Pelicans into a super team?' quiz

The guard tandems you'd want in a 2-on-2 tournament

We got our hands on the new Nintendo Switch, here are our first impressions

Top 10 second basemen in baseball for 2017

Teams, players who could be dealing at the NBA trade deadline

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher with 200 or more wins since 1961

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker