Benson Henderson no longer competing with his infamous toothpick out of concern for his kids: ‘I’m worried about them copying me’

Parenthood is one of the greatest responsibilities any person can face — and it appears that with four young children at home, Benson Henderson has set aside some of his wayward habits.

Henderson, the former UFC and WEC lightweight champion, is well known for fighting and training with a toothpick in his mouth. The habit first came to light during his lightweight title defense against Nate Diaz in 2012, and despite Henderson catching flak for it from Dana White and others, he continued doing so for some time, with the toothpick making a notable reappearances in his bouts with Brandon Thatch and Jorge Masvidal in 2015. But now that he has kids of his own, “Smooth” says he’s doing his best to drop the habit.

“I try not to have the toothpick anymore,” Henderson said on The MMA Hour. “It was just a bad habit. I try not to. I always told my mom that it was because I saw my dad with a toothpick in his mouth, so then I would copy him and be 7, 8, 9 years old running around with a toothpick in my mouth and she’d be all scared, ‘Oh, take it out!’ Then when I had my oldest [child], I envisioned my 6-year old, 5-year old, 7-year old son running around with a toothpick in his mouth and I was deathly afraid. Like, ‘No! You could get really hurt!’

“That’s why I try not to do that whole toothpick thing, just because I’m worried about them copying me. So I try not to.”

It’s a good choice from Henderson. While not expressly forbidden under the Unified Rules of MMA, competing with a sharp object in one’s mouth almost certainly constitutes a genuine safety concern that athletic commissions would deem unacceptable, and even Henderson himself has admitted to some dangerous instances with the toothpick previously, though at the time he was still intent on keeping it.

Henderson recently re-signed with Bellator following a split decision win over Islam Mamedov. He is scheduled to face Peter Queally on September 23 at Bellator 285.