Maria Henderson is aware her family name carries big weight in the MMA world, but she’s not going to let that affect her.
The Bellator newcomer is kicking off her professional MMA career now that her husband, former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, retired from fighting. Benson hung up his gloves earlier this month and made no secret that his focus is solely on Maria’s career.
Maria is thankful and motivated by his support.
“It’s great. Every wife wants a husband that supports her, and I don’t think a lot of them get that,” Maria told MMA Junkie and other reporters at Wednesday’s Bellator 293 media day. “I think that sometimes husbands are still in that old school role where they’re the bread maker. Even when he was the bread maker, he pushed me to be the best he can be. He pushed me to win jiu-jitsu competitions, the best mom I could be. It means the world to me. I think I have a fantastic husband. He’s always supported me.”
Maria (1-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) is set to maker her promotional debut as a professional this Friday at Bellator 293, which takes place at Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, Calif. The main card airs on Showtime following prelims on MMA Junkie. She’ll take on Mackenzie Stiller in a three-round women’s strawweight bout.
Maria doesn’t feel any pressure ahead of her debut, being wife to one of the greatest lightweights in MMA history. Quite the opposite, she’s motivated as she knows very well what it takes to be champion.
“I think people expect there to be a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations, but Ben and I, we’re two different people,” Maria said. “In the end, I’m the one that has to put in the hard work. I’m the one that has to step in the cage. It’s not him.
“He did his time. He did all of his hard work, and the only thing that I think, it’s pressure is that I know how hard it is. I know what it takes. I know all the blood, sweat and tears that it goes into this sport. So if anything, I want to push myself as hard as my husband pushed himself, if not more, because he’s given me his legacy, and he’s helped me push forward. I don’t think there’s any pressure. I’m just excited to be here. I love to do this, and that’s why I’m here.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 293.
Now focused on MMA, Maria Henderson not pressured by husband Benson’s legacy: ‘We’re two different people’