WWE star Daniel Bryan geeked out over meeting UFC's Benson Henderson
Daniel Bryan is one of the most famous pro wrestling stars and the WWE world heavyweight champion. He just headlined Wrestlemania XXX two months ago.
Yet when it comes to MMA and the UFC, Bryan is still kind of a fanboy. The pro wrestling standout trains in mixed martial arts and said the first time he visited the MMA Lab in Arizona, he was somewhat starstruck about seeing former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson.
"I was like, 'Whoa, Benson Henderson -- that's so cool,'" Bryan said on "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's podcast recently.
“But he was just a normal-sized dude. I expected him to be a WWE guy, like all big and stuff, but he was awesome. He's a cool dude.”
Bryan said some fighters have had the same reaction when they meet him, so there's a give and take. Henderson isn't a huge WWE fan, but said he's a supporter of Bryan, especially after meeting him and talking with him for a bit.
"He was completely low key, down to earth, didn't say much, and then I got introduced to him and he told me who he was, and I was like, 'Oh yeah, I remember you,'" Henderson said on "The Great MMA Debate" podcast this week. "But he was just a normal-sized dude. I expected him to be a WWE guy, like all big and stuff, but he was awesome. He's a cool dude."
Bryan stands just 5-foot-10 and weighs 210 pounds, which is small for a WWE headliner. One of the most impressive things about him is the way he has gotten over with the fans despite his size. Henderson was impressed with how hard Bryan worked in the gym. Bryan was also a regular at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, training under heralded grappling coach Neil Melanson, who now works at Alliance in San Diego.
"He busted his butt, too," Henderson said. "I value hard work above anything else, and for him to get where he's at, of course he's a hard worker, but he busted his butt."
Henderson, who headlines UFC Fight Night against Rustam Khabilov on Saturday (10 p.m., FOX Sports 1) in Albuquerque, was somewhat honored that Bryan geeked out when meeting him. He said that he has had similar experiences with people he looks up to.
"It's funny how that happens," Henderson said. "It happens to me all the time. I'll see somebody -- it will be a wrestling kid like Cael Sanderson or Kyle Dake -- like, 'Oh my God, it's Kyle Dake!' It's such a role reversal, I'm such a huge fan of a lot of people. I'm a fan of Daniel Bryan's. It is pretty cool when you see that."
Bryan is one of many WWE athletes who are fans and have trained in MMA. Former WWE champion CM Punk trains in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under the Gracies in California and is good friends with UFC star Chael Sonnen. Brock Lesnar, of course, is a former UFC heavyweight champion. And Dave Bautista, one of the co-headliners of Wrestlemania with Bryan, has one MMA fight, a victory, under his belt.
On the other side, as Bryan mentioned to Austin, Josh Barnett and Frank Trigg have been involved in pro wrestling in Japan and there are many WWE fans among MMA fighters, most notably Ronda Rousey and Chael Sonnen.
"It's interesting the style mesh and the respect those guys have for pro wrestling," Bryan said.
We won't get into the fact that Bryan might have stolen his "Yes!" chant from Diego Sanchez. Oh wait, we just did.