CHICAGO — There was one part of planning his wedding that Benson Henderson thoroughly enjoyed. Maybe too much.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champ, who married his girlfriend, Maria Magana, at midnight Jan. 1, says he really enjoyed picking out the cake.
That’s well and good for most grooms, but Henderson was in the midst of training for his main-event fight against Josh Thomson at the UFC on Fox 10 event Saturday at United Center.
“Yeah, trying the cakes was my favorite part,” he said Thursday during a media session. “But the hardest part of the whole thing was working that cake off. I had way too much, and I was pretty fat. So that made me sad. I literally probably had like 4,000 calories of cake.
“Do you have any idea how long it takes to work that off?”
Henderson had plenty of motivation to hit the gym. After three successful defenses, he lost the title in his last fight, when Anthony Pettis submitted him in the first round of their bout in August.
Now his focus is on regaining the belt, so Henderson didn’t hesitate to accept an offer to step in for an injured Pettis to fight Thomson. Even with his wedding planned so close to fight night.
Henderson, 30, credits being able to distinguish between work time and home time for his ability to prepare for such a big fight through the distractions of a wedding.
“I’m pretty good at keeping my work life work and my personal life personal. I don’t bring my work home,” he said. “When it’s time to concentrate on (Saturday) and Josh Thomson, I do that. When it’s time to go try cakes, I’m all for that, too.”
Henderson wasn’t an absentee groom, either. Although the wedding had been planned for Jan. 3, he suggested an idea to Maria that the couple secretly change the date and time to get married at exactly midnight on New Year’s.
When the night came, most of the invitees thought they were headed to a rehearsal dinner and instead arrived for the wedding.
“He was very involved. That whole surprise thing was his idea,” Maria said Thursday. “When it came to colors, he didn’t care. But he was pretty involved the whole way.
“He’s a pretty romantic guy.”
Henderson proved that to a Fox audience in April, when he brought Maria into the cage after a victory over Gilbert Melendez on the UFC on Fox 7 card and proposed on national television.
Henderson already is learning what it means to be a husband. A devoted Seattle Seahawks fan, he was in a Twitter exchange with Denver Broncos fan Donald Cerrone, who also will fight on Saturday’s card, after the Super Bowl matchup was set Sunday.
Henderson and Cerrone, who met twice in World Extreme Cagefighting title fights before their UFC days, decided on an “eyebrow bet” on the game.
The loser must shave his eyebrows.
Although he’s supremely confident in a Seahawks victory, Henderson said he should have cleared the bet with his bride because they’ll be taking their honeymoon soon after the Super Bowl.
“She wasn’t happy,” he said with a laugh. “I should have checked with her first. I forget I have to check ahead of time before I do silly stuff now. I’ve been doing a good job (as a husband), but I’m learning slowly.”
His wife, a San Francisco 49ers fan, just shook her head when asked about the wager.
“I might have to punch Cerrone for that one,” she said.
Cerrone probably is more concerned with rising prospect Adriano Martins, his opponent in a lightweight bout. Both hope a win will increase their profile in the division, but it’s Henderson and Thomson who could put themselves in line for a shot at Pettis’ title whenever he returns from his injury.
Thomson wasn’t thrilled with his preparations for this fight, however, calling it the worst camp of his career. Although he trains with some of the world’s top fighters at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., several of his gym mates were hurt and several others were home for the holidays for key stretches of the training camp.
“That doesn’t mean I’m going to fight any less hard,” he said. “It’s going to be a good fight.”
Henderson is ready to do his part to make sure that’s the case now that the wedding is in the past.
As for the cake, he must have done a good job picking out the right one.
“He had two pieces,” Maria said. “He really liked it.”
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.