Benson Henderson: “I’m never going to be ashamed to wear my faith on my sleeve”
Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson is a tough nut to crack when it comes to self-promotion ahead of any of his fights in the UFC. While he was the best fighter in the world at 155-pounds, Henderson could never get drawn into public battles or a war of words with any opponent — even Nate Diaz.
Henderson has never been anything less than honest when answering a question about an opponent or a situation he’s been presented with while fighting in the UFC. He’s just not the kind of guy to drop a slew of four letter words and point fingers just for the sake of hyping up a fight that wasn’t personal in the first place.
To get Henderson to open up, the best subject to discuss is his immense faith and religion, which he often touts long before talking about his latest win or opponent he’s facing inside the Octagon. The former champion isn’t likely to give up headline material when speaking about another fighter, but talking about his faith is one subject Henderson is more passionate about than anything else in his life.
With giant angels wings tattooed on his back and a customary post fight speech that starts with the phrase ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’, Henderson is possibly the most outspoken man of God in the UFC. From his walkout song to his Twitter page, Henderson isn’t shy about his belief and if that’s off putting to some fans or even other fighters that’s just too bad because he’s going to preach the gospel whether anybody likes it or not.
I’m not going to be ashamed to wear my faith on my sleeve. If people don’t like it, it is what it is, I don’t really care
– Benson Henderson
"I definitely think about quite a bit. It’s something I take pride in being as real as possible. I love Christ, I love being a Christian. It’s very hard sometimes making the right choice or making the right decisions, but I enjoy it and I like it. That’s who I am. I’m not going to be ashamed to wear my faith on my sleeve," Henderson told FOX Sports.
"If people don’t like it, it is what it is, I don’t really care. I try to live it. I don’t just talk about it and preach it, I try to actually be that guy. I definitely make mistakes and I never ever try to come across like I’m perfect. I know I sin every single day and that’s why I need Christ in my life."
Now religion is always a touchy subject in general conversation because there are so many different belief structures out there not to mention non-believers, agnostics, Atheists and anti-theists, that it’s usually easier to just avoid talking about a spiritual deity than to bring it up in the first place.
Henderson doesn’t subscribe to that theory, however, because he’s a Christian in every second and every minute of every day of his life. He understands there are a whole lot of people that don’t believe what he believes, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to talk about something that means so much to him. He’s seen the ugly side of his outspoken nature as well with messages sent to him daily on Twitter and other social networks either disagreeing with his beliefs or just telling him to shut up and stop talking about it all together.
Don’t expect either of those things to happen.
"You have to realize being in the spotlight or not even in the spotlight — a lot of kids nowadays with the cyber-bullying, you don’t even have to be a celebrity so to speak. It’s just the society we live in, it’s tough. You can’t let it affect you. You have to bigger than that situation, you have to be bigger than that sort of stuff," Henderson said.
"They’re going to be who they are and they’re going to say what they say. You just have to be you. Keep on being yourself and be proud of who you are."
Now being a proud man of faith doesn’t mean that Henderson can’t have opinions that don’t always jive with the majority of folks in this world and that includes some of his fellow Christians. He’s spoken out several times in support of gay marriage and he’s recently joined a movement on Twitter to boycott the upcoming Ridley Scott biblical film ‘Exodus’ starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver.
"The movie is the new Pharaoh of Egypt movie ‘Exodus’ and at first it totally went over my head, I didn’t realize and then it was brought to my attention. How are they going to have biblical movies, historical times and age at a certain time and place and at the same time you’re going to vastly misportray, purposefully, not on accident, hugely misportray what people look like in the movie," Henderson said.
"That’s not good. Getting Caucasian-Americans, getting white people to play the roles of what are pretty safe to assume darker skinned Africans and Egyptians. That’s really weird that Hollywood would do that, that Ridley Scott would do that. It’s not a terrible thing, it’s not going to end the world. It’s not the end of Hollywood as we know it, but it does suck that Hollywood would portray actors like that."
In many ways, Henderson is an anomaly in a sport filled with alpha male mentality and a passion for bashing your fellow fighters. He’d rather train like an animal, beat his opponent in the cage, glorify his faith and be a shining example to other athletes, kids and fans as somebody they can look up to.
"Being a Christian is being held to high standards. One thing that does help me is to live up to those standards," Henderson explained. "It’s tough and it’s hard to be perfect and it’s hard to try to be that way but it gives me something to aspire to."