Saturday afternoon I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Adrian "A Train" Henderson, one of the latest talents to enter Conflict MMA, the southeast's largest mixed martial arts promotion. The 33 year old South Carolina native has a powerful wrestling game and has used it along with constantly improving stand-up skils to amass an impressive 6-2 amateur record. He looks to face "Pharaoh" Joe Council in his debut at Conflict's Havoc at the Civic Center in Savannah, GA. The grappler was awesome and took some time out to chat with us about his past, the UFC, and growing up during the rise of mixed martial arts.
Derek: Thank you very much for coming down to Savannah to put on this show for us. We look forward to seeing you fight.
Derek: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background as a fighter?
Henderson: Sure! I'm Adrian Henderson fighting out of Columbia, SC. Pretty much all my life I've done competitive sports. I've done football and one thing that compares to fighting is wrestling. I've wrestled a long time. As far as my background in fighting, I train hard in jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai. Those are my strong points. Of course I can add in my wrestling as well to take a guy to the ground and submit him.
Derek: That sounds like a very stable core. A lot of the more successful fighters these days use a strong wrestling core as a base. Can you tell us a little about what made you decide to become a professional fighter?
Henderson: Actually when I started I had no intention of fighting at all. Me and my brother always wanted to take Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu so we found a gym in Columbia and started participating there. They had a couple of MMA classes and I would never go because, I was a little worried, you know, if a guy punches me in the face and I'm going to get upset, and we may really end up fighting and at that time odds were I would loose. Eventually I started doing the class and this promoter comes in and asks if I would fight this guy and I was like... ehhh.. I'm not really trying to fight. I ended up taking the fight though. I ended up losing the fight, but I didn't get dominated against a guy who was six and one. I lost, but it sparked a fire in me. I went in against a guy who was 6 and 1 and he didn't just run me out of the ring. That's when I realized I could really do this and started putting myself into it full time.
Derek: Yeah, one thing we really noticed while researching you is that you started with a strong wrestling base and have developed significantly as a striker over the years. Can you tell us a little more about how the A Train continues to evolve?
Henderson: I'm always strong on the ground. I've never had a problem going to the ground, and working with BJJ, I'm able to take people and still be good off my back. I figured that was my strong point, you know, I'm not excellent, but I realized I was good enough to get most people to the ground but I didn't know what to do in the situation where I was not able to get a guy down. Then I met with Nik Rodriguez and began training with him. He's my cornerman and coach. He's been the person who has really brought out the change in my fighting. When I fought at Shaw Air Force Base, that was the point where I felt I was no longer worried about standing with a fighter.
Derek: Agreed. You look much more comfortable on your feet now. Can you tell us a little about some of the guys you looked up to while training or coming up?
Henderson: Well, MMA wasn't that big when I was in high school. When Royce Gracie was submitting people at UFC 1, that was my senior year in high school. My dad jumped on it and was like you see this guy!? He's got this grappling thing and he's beating up these all the other fighters. I thought that was kinda neat since I was a grappler too and he was out there proving he was one of the best.
As far as coming up though, I can't think of anybody that I really liked or looked up. I can't think of any guys that I saw and thought, you know, "I want to be like him."
Derek: Would you say your dad played a large role in your development in your fighting career?
Henderson: Oh yeah, as far as even being able to do this and have any success at it, at a young age my dad was one of those people... he wanted us to play sports but he wouldn't force us to. He didn't want to just throw us in there and tell us, "you're going to do this and you're going to do that."
But I was in the sixth grade when I started wrestling. My brother was already wrestling and my Dad started getting involved. One day my dad just said, "well, why don't you come on up here and see if you like it?"
And it's funny, you know? It wasn't really that I liked the wrestling part, it was being a kid and I made a bunch of friends there. Two or three weeks I came back wanting to make some more friends and it got serious from there. In my eigth grade year I was actually competing for a spot on the high school varsity team. I didn't make it, but I ended up wrestling varsity my freshman year and excelled from there.
Derek: That sounds awesome. It's great to have a strong support system like that. We've got a pretty big free card coming up tonight, UFC on Fox 7. Will you be watching that one?
Henderson: Oh yeah! For sure.
Derek: Who do you think is going to come out on top between Henderson and Melendez?
Henderson: I'm actually thinking Benson Henderson is going to win that one.
Derek: Yeah. We're thinking he'll get the decision on that one around here as well.
Henderson: Yeah. And the sad thing about it is that he puts on really good fights but I hate the fact that all of his fights go all five rounds. All of his fights go all five round. But the fight I'm really looking forward to seeing is Frank Mir vs. Daniel Cormier.
Derek: That's awesome. I was going to ask you as a heavyweight how excited you are about that one.
Henderson: Yeah I'm very excited for that one. I remember when I first saw Cormier fighting in Strikeforce. He was one of those guys who looked good and was taking people down but I didn't see much standup wise, but as Strikeforce closed out his striking was getting pretty good. Whereas Frank Mir has been working on his standup as well. I really think Daniel Cormier will win that fight though.
Derek: We think we'll see a ground and pound victory there too. As far as fighting goes, are you excited to be working with Conflict MMA and putting on a show here in Savannah?
Henderson: Oh absolutely. Those guys, Jared, Andrew, they always give us a good card. They're very respectful guys and treat all of the fighters excellently.
Derek: They definitely seem like a very nice group. We're really happy to have them here and work with them too. Can you tell us a little about what we can expect from your fight against Joe Council?
Henderson: Expect some fireworks. I've actually watched Joe a few times. He's an aggressive guy. He likes has a mean attitude and tries to get in your head, get guys scared. That doesn't bother me. From what I have seen he is a stand up fighter, He's not very good on the ground, so I know he's not going to want to go to the ground with me. It's going to be a standup war. Somebody might get knocked out.