Benson Henderson isn’t sure the words would completely get through, but he wanted to try anyway. So he pulled Sage Northcutt aside Saturday night and attempted to impart on him some wisdom.
“I know you’re just pretty heartbroken at that one moment,” Henderson told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I feel a lot of what someone says goes in one ear and out the other. But I was trying to get his attention, get him to really listen to what I was saying.”
Northcutt lost his first pro MMA fight at UFC on FOX 18 and it came against Henderson’s teammate Bryan Barberena in Newark, N.J. Barberena submitted Northcutt in the second round with an arm triangle.
Since then, Northcutt has taken the brunt of fans’ anger. The UFC hyped the 19-year-old prospect hard ever since president Dana White discovered him on his “Lookin’ For a Fight” reality show over the summer. Things only got worse when Northcutt said he had strep throat on The MMA Hour, prompting critics to say he was making excuses.
Perhaps Henderson, who was in Barberena’s corner, knew all of this would happen. Either way, the former UFC lightweight champion wanted to encourage Northcutt.
“It sucks,” Henderson said he told the youngster. “We all lose. It happens to everybody. But use it. Use it to help make you a better fighter. Don’t make this a defining moment. Let this be a small step to making you better. Let it help you, to fuel you, to drive you to be able to do things that you don’t want to do.”
Henderson, 32, has a world of experience in MMA. He’s a former WEC lightweight champion who worked himself back up to be the UFC titleholder. Henderson has also experienced venom from fans due to multiple controversial decision victories. On Monday, he announced he would be signing with Bellator MMA, becoming the most high-profile fighter to make the jump from the UFC to Bellator.
The fact that Northcutt was fighting his teammate didn’t matter to Henderson. He just wanted to reach out to his fellow fighter and give him a proverbial pat on the back.
“I was just trying to express to him to bounce back, to stay strong and just all of that to that nature,” Henderson said. “It was kind of hard, it was quick. I was only able to talk to him in 30 seconds or so. I was trying to express all that in less words.”