If you go
What: CageSport 49
Where: Emerald Queen Casino, 2024 E. 29th Street, Tacoma.
When: Saturday at 7 p.m.
Cost: $35, $55, $100. Visit halquistproductions.com.
Staff Sergeant Tyrone Henderson, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, believes 2018 will be his year in the world of mixed marital arts.
2017 ended well for Henderson with two first-round wins; Henderson (5-3-1) is scheduled to fight Tyler McKinney (2-0) in a featherweight (146 pounds) fight at CageSport 49 Saturday at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma.
2016 and most of 2017 were not the best years for Henderson, who suffered three consecutive losses. A mixture of personal problems, depression and injuries hindered his ability in the cage, he said.
“I want to show everyone that resiliency is a trait you must have in our sport,” Henderson said. “In life, things happen. I want to show that if you put your mind to something and do everything you can to achieve those goals, it can happen.”
In 2016, Henderson was going through a divorce, and he was taking fights merely for financial reasons and from the influence of his former camp. Henderson lost his first pro fight in the U.S. during a King of the Cage event Feb. 6, 2016, in Lincoln City, Ore.: a technical knockout loss in the third round.
With only two weeks to train, Henderson accepted another fight with Tyler Diamond for King of the Cage March 19, 2016, losing again to a third-round TKO.
After taking time to recover from tearing a tendon in his ankle, Henderson didn’t return to the cage until CageSport 46 July 15. Just before the fight, he tore the tricep in his left arm while doing MMA training. Henderson attempted to fight through the injury and took Wyatt Gonzalez to the third round before submitting to a rear-naked choke.
This led to Henderson making a change to train with the coach J.D. Burns at Battleground MMA in Lakewood, a switch he said he should have made sooner.
“If that would have happened, then those loses would have never happened,” Henderson said. “Although everyone who saw me said I did a good job, I knew personally that was not my best.”
Henderson also credits his daughter Tyra, 7, with being his biggest motivator. He calls his daughter before and after every fight. She has watched him since he began competing in MMA tournaments while stationed in South Korea.
“My daughter will tell me, ‘You better not lose that fight,’” Henderson said. “Everyone gets butterflies before a fight. What I get is my daughter repetitively in my head going ‘don’t lose; don’t lose; don’t lose.’”
Henderson’s roots of mixed martial arts date back to when he was a freshman at Thornton High School in Harvey, Ill. He discovered the school’s wrestling team during his freshman and sophomore years before transferring to Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Flossmoor, Ill.
Henderson entered the Army right out of high school after graduating in 2004, going to U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, South Korea, for his first duty station. Ever since he joined the Army, Henderson has been involved in combatives competitions. He won a hand-to-hand combatives tournament not long after reporting for duty.
In 2005, his leadership sent him to school to become a master combatives instructor — a course which utilizes a lot of MMA training to prepare military service members. Henderson then competed in multiple jiujitsu and other marital arts tournaments, including one that gave him a chance to train with Jay Dee Penn’s amateur team in Hawaii.
Henderson made his professional MMA debut in a draw with Ho Taek Oh May 31, 2014. He won the next three fights either by submission or technical knockout in the first round.
He continued his MMA career after joining the 593rd ESC as a master combatives instructor in December 2015.
As he looks toward winning his third consecutive fight, Henderson said he feels confident with a supportive camp, leadership and his daughter. All three have certainly helped him enter his recent fights with more confidence than in 2016 and most of 2017.
“Anyone I fight now will get the full wrath,” Henderson said. “It’s inevitable. No matter who I fight, wherever I fight, they will get the full version of me. If I have no block mentally, I can’t be beat.”