Exclusive: Part Two of Our Interview with Benson Henderson’s Head Coach John Crouch
To read part one of our interview click here:
After discussing how good Gracie’s camp is, I decided it was time to shift the focus back on the fighters Crouch trains at The MMA Lab. Not only does he have Henderson under his tutelage he is now training former WEC Lightweight Champion Jamie Varner and former UFC welterweight contender Joe Riggs. Crouch’s impact reaches far beyond their physical talents as he knows that a fighter’s mental well being is just as important as how they feel physically.
“The trick for me was getting Jamie happy doing what he was doing again,” Crouch said. “He wasn’t having any fun, I saw him after his fight against Shane Roller (WEC 53) and I told him to keep his head up. He kind of blew me off which is fine he was dealing with his emotions after the fight. Jamie’s a great fighter; he’s one of the scariest guys we had to prepare for. I was nervous when Ben was preparing to face him, Jamie hits hard. He’s a good wrestler and he’s better than people think on the ground. I saw him at a show after he had retired and I told him to find his love for the sport. He came back and all I work on is keeping him positive. He’s such a perfectionist he can beat himself up a little bit.”
“Joe’s beaten a couple of guys with good records, one kid was 6-2 and his last fight the guy was 7-1. With Joey we’re just trying to get his feet back underneath him, trying to get him training the right way and remaining positive. We keep him working hard and forgetting about all of the other stuff. I really think he can compete right now, but we’ll just keep winning fights. If he keeps on winning they can’t say no, they are going to bring him back eventually. He’s got five or six wins in a row and four or five of them have been first round stoppages. He hits so hard on the ground he makes people forget how to do math! He’s been a really good training partner for Benson, he has really good boxing skills, he’s a southpaw, six feet tall and he’s been really helpful.”
Henderson is one of the more respectful, humble and quiet fighters you will find on the UFC roster. He is the type of guy who does his talking inside the Octagon. Diaz isn’t as quiet or reserved as Henderson and tends to get fired up. He will try and goad his opponent into some trash talking in and out of the cage. Diaz has been known to throw up the middle finger during his fights and will certainly attempt to throw Henderson off of his game plan. Crouch has already taken measures to try and insure Henderson doesn’t take the bait.
“We’ve been practicing and having some fun, it’s hard as a fighter because you’re competitive,” said Crouch. “When someone starts talking to you your tendency is to talk back and get fired up which can cause you to do more than you’re supposed to and make a mistake. Nate talks and uses it to fire himself up, he’s a good guy, he trains hard and he’s a great fighter and we have nothing but respect for him. We definitely don’t want to let him take us away from the things we want to do.”
Henderson was a guest on the show a few weeks back and told us how it was a dream of his to fight on the same card as BJ Penn. We mentioned that to BJ when he was a guest and he told us how Henderson helped him prepare for his title defense against Diego Sanchez and he knew after five minutes Ben would be something special. Crouch took this as a great compliment and let us know how much respect he has for Penn.
“It’s funny because we don’t really talk about our favorite fighters, but BJ Penn has always been one of my favorites,” admitted Crouch. “Ben and I both love BJ and that’s a really cool thing for him to say. We’re both very excited about fighting on the same card, its BJ Penn for God’s sake! It’s awesome to be a part of this; it’s going to be really fun.”
UFC on Fox 5 features four outstanding fights, besides Henderson-Diaz and Penn-MacDonald; the UFC has also put together a welterweight showdown between Matt Brown and Mike Swick. In a light heavyweight bout that could carry title implications former champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will face one of the divisions’ brightest prospects in Alexander Gustafsson. Crouch is extremely excited about watching Gustafsson face his toughest foe in his young career. He then gave his take on how he sees BJ vs. Rory going down.
“Dominick Cruz has been telling us about Gustafsson every time we see him,” Crouch stated. “Shogun has been around for a long time and has fought everybody. It’ll be a great test for Gustafsson to see if he’s ready to step up to the next level. Shogun is as tough as it gets and I don’t think Gustafsson has had one of those fights yet. This is his introduction to the big time so I’m really excited to see that.”
“I love BJ and I’m hoping his cardio will take him all the way through three rounds because Rory is going to be really physical. I like BJ a lot so obviously I’m kind of biased on that one. I worry as the fight gets deeper that Rory’s physicality might become a factor. BJ has fought Machida at heavyweight, he’ll fight King Kong and he’ll do great. The welterweights have worn him down a little bit, but I’m excited to see it. I think it’s a good test for him, MacDonald is a tough kid. He really beat Carlos Condit; if the ref doesn’t call that fight for five more seconds then Rory is in Condit’s place. It’s hard for me to pick, I love the fighters and my heart pulls for BJ.”