Benson Henderson is the new lightweight champion in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He beat defending champion Frankie Edgar at UFC 144 on Sunday with a unanimous decision at the Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. This caps a heady climb to the top of the sport for Henderson, who only made his debut nine months ago.
With the champion's belt around his waist, Henderson ran to the audience and hugged his Korean mother Kim Sung-hwa to share the joyous moment. Henderson wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the Korean national flag on its right shoulder, and the U.S. star spangled banner on its left shoulder. A tattoo on his left arm showed his name written in Korean characters, which he said shows his family background.
Henderson was born in the U.S. but had a Korean-style upbringing, which included learning Korean language and etiquette, eating Korean dishes and learning the country's national martial art, taekwondo.
Henderson's family history resembles that of NFL star Hines Ward in many respects. His mother was working on the bus commuting to and from the Demilitarized Zone in Korea when she met and later married an African-American soldier stationed in the country in 1980. The couple had their first son, Julius, and spent the early years of their marriage in Yongsan.
While pregnant with Benson, Kim left for the U.S. with her husband. But the marriage proved to be short-lived as Henderson's father turned to drink and drugs, and eventually found himself in jail. Kim got divorced in 1992, and worked 16 to 17 hours a day to raise her two boys.
With the title, Henderson will get a hefty bonus in addition to an undisclosed match fee that is estimated to be worth more than US$100,000. As the match was named "fight of the night," he made an additional $65,000 as well as a champion’s bonus based on broadcasting profits.
Henderson was ecstatic, saying the victory brought him one step closer to his dream of buying a new home for his mother. Henderson and Kim will visit Korea for two days from Tuesday.