Following what was arguably his toughest title defense to date against Gilbert Melendez at UFC on FOX 7, UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson followed the fight with another difficult task: asking longtime girlfriend Maria Magana to marry him in front of a booing San Jose crowd on national television.
Afterward, he described the experience to ESPN. According to Henderson, he had been “thinking of ideas to make [the proposal] special. I thought about doing something in public, like after a fight. Then I realized that I would need to be concentrating on the fight, and I was on a fence. I bought the ring, and I didn’t tell anybody about this. I then decided to man up and ask.”
He said of the crowd of over 13,000, many of whom vocally supported his opponent, local fighter Melendez, “I heard afterward about the crowd. I was so nervous just asking. I didn’t hear a single boo. I just heard her say ‘Yes.’”
When asked if he would still have proposed having lost the fight, the champion was unsure. “I don’t know,” he said. “I wasn’t sure I was going to ask her or not. I know you still get interviewed if you don’t win when you’re the defending champion. But I don’t know what I would have done.”
Even before the fight took place, Henderson said, UFC President Dana White warned the champion that because of time constraints he would have to finish the fight early. He remembered thinking, “Goodness gracious. I have to knock him out? There are millions of people watching. My heart is racing. What did I get myself into?”
The two still do not have a date set for a wedding, but in the meantime Henderson will return to the gym on Monday.
“There are holes in my game,” he explained. “I didn’t have my best performance. I could have done better. Gilbert is tough as heck. I know I’ll see him again. He’s been fighting since 2002. He has put in more than 20,000 hours of practice. I have about 7,000 hours. I know there are only 24 hours in a day, but I have to get better.”