UFC record drives champion Benson Henderson

MILWAUKEE — Saturday night, Benson Henderson has the opportunity to become, statistically speaking, the most dominant titleholder in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s lightweight division.

Yet it seems in the buildup to Henderson’s UFC 164 rematch with fellow former World Extreme Cagefighting champ Anthony Pettis, Henderson’s shot at history largely is being ignored.

“Maybe nobody knew it until I said it,” UFC President Dana White joked at Thursday’s pre-event press conference.

Henderson (19-2 mixed martial mrts, 7-0 UFC) and Pettis meet in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 164 event (pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET) at the  Bradley Center.

Henderson currently is tied with future UFC Hall of Famers B.J. Penn and Frankie Edgar for the most consecutive defenses of the UFC lightweight title with three. They’ve come in a division long considered one of the most talent-rich in the sport.

VIDEO: Benson Henderson highlights

But whether it’s Henderson’s humble, blue-collar approach to the microphone or his grinding, fundamentally sound style of fighting, the 29-year-old hasn’t quite earned the superstar status one might expect from a fighter who is undefeated in seven UFC appearances.

VIDEO: Anthony Pettis highlights

“Sometimes it takes a while,” White conceded. “B.J. Penn was this kid who came into the UFC as a jiu jitsu guy, and he just started knocking people out. He was explosive. He was athletic. He was freaky, and he was a maniac.

“Some guys burst onto the scene like a Conor McGregor, and everybody’s talking about him because he’s got that thing, and other guys take a little while (longer). Believe it or not, it took a long time before anybody gave a (bleep).”

Henderson doesn’t seem to mind any perceived lack of attention or respect. With a 17-1 mark in the last six years, the fighter nicknamed “Smooth” has elevated himself from obscurity to five-time UFC headliner, and he stands on the verge of history.

Pettis remains the only man to beat him during that run, leaping off the cage to deliver one of the most memorable kicks in MMA history en route to a unanimous-decision victory in their first encounter in December2010 under the now-defunct WEC banner.

Pettis faltered in his UFC debut but has rebounded with three consecutive wins and now challenges Henderson again, this time for the UFC belt.

For Henderson, it’s a chance for redemption, and perhaps a little respect. But the champion doesn’t seem too concerned about those minor accomplishments.

Henderson wants to walk away from the sport as the greatest to put on a pair of gloves, and he’s eyeing former middleweight champ Anderson Silva’s promotional record of 10 successful title defenses.

“My long-term goal is to be the best fighter on the planet, pound-for-pound,” Henderson said. “Along the way, you’re going to hit other smaller goals, other milestones.

“I always viewed B.J. Penn as the greatest lightweight of all time. I knew he defended his belt three times, so I always had it in my peripheral vision. I knew for me to be where I want to be — breaking Anderson Silva’s record — I was going to have to beat B.J.’s along the way.”

Morgan also writes for MMAjunkie.com