Friday, Oct. 16, 2009 | midnight
Ben Henderson’s win over Donald Cerrone for the WEC interim lightweight championship in what many are calling the fight of the year didn’t come without consequence.
While the 25-year-old fighter said he escaped with “no serious injury”, he also admitted there have been multiple trips to the emergency room and an eye specialist in Phoenix for an injury he suffered in the final minute of the fight.
Henderson has been told the injury is not a detached retina, but he’s still awaiting a final diagnosis.
“It looks like a regular black eye to me, but he’s told me that there’s been damage to the actual eyeball,” said Henderson from his home in Phoenix. “The curvature of my eye is normal but the iris was somehow moved forward from the impact of the kick. He doesn’t know why that would have happened and he’s never seen it before.”
The injury is temporarily sidelining Henderson from any physical activity.
Ironically, his next opponent, WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner, suffered a similar injury when he fought Cerrone in January.
Varner was unable to finish that fight after taking an illegal knee that blurred his vision. Judges eventually awarded a split decision to Varner in that fight.
“I ended up having a lesion on my right eye,” Varner said. “I had to take eye drops for six weeks and let it heal. It’s a little different. It’s not something you can just ice and take Ibuprofen for.”
Although his injury came from a kick, it was Cerrone’s submission attempts that Henderson looked forward to watching most when he viewed the fight for the first time the following night.
At the post-fight press conference, Henderson didn’t understand why so many questions were directed toward the kimura Cerrone attempted in the final round that had his shoulder twisted behind him.
After seeing how bad it looked on film, the questions finally made sense.
“At no point in the fight was I overly concerned like, ‘Man, I’m going to have to tap soon,’ so I didn’t really know what people were talking about after the fight,” Henderson said. “I didn’t know how gnarly it looked until I watched the video Sunday night.”
Henderson said the film also made him feel better about the fourth round of the fight, which he said at the time felt like a 10-8 round for Cerrone.
“Going into the fifth, I felt pretty comfortable that I won the first three rounds,” Henderson said. “I thought he had completely dominated the fourth round, that it was a 10-8 round for him.
“But when I went back and watched it on film, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. He definitely won it, but not like I thought he had.”
Hype is already building for the potential clash between Henderson and Varner, who has been on layoff since January due to injuries. But Varner’s hope of a date this year seems unlikely.
As it appears now, the two would probably fight in early 2010, assuming Henderson’s eye is fully healed.
While Varner is excited at the thought of getting back in the cage, there will be no rush for the interim champ who’s only in his third year of fighting.
“I’m young in the game. I still need a lot of improvement,” Henderson said. “I’m not to the level yet where I can just go from one training camp to another. I need to improve my skills in between fights. I’m not a B.J. Penn who can just relax. I need to get a lot better.”
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.