Dan Henderson Intends Another Run at UFC Title, but Retirement Plan is Already in Place

June 10, 2013
30 Comments

Dan Henderson UFC 157 Pre 7In a sport where extravagant nicknames are the norm, it says a lot about Dan Henderson that after 16 years as a professional mixed martial artist he still goes by the unpretentious moniker of ‘Hendo.’

The 42-year-old might be one of the most successful fighters in the history of the sport, but he likes to keep things simple, and as he prepares for his main event match-up with Rashad Evans at UFC 161, Henderson wants to talk wrestling.

Before he was a UFC middleweight tournament winner, Pride welterweight Grand Prix winner, Pride welterweight champion, Pride middleweight champion or Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, Henderson was a world-class Greco Roman wrestler who twice went to the Olympics.

He was recently inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame in his native California. This might not have made headlines in the same way MMA news does, but for a fervent supporter of the sport such as Henderson the low-key ceremony was a source of pride.

“It’s a great honor, especially for something I am so passionate about,” he told MMAWeekly.com.

Henderson twice finished runner-up in the Greco Roman World Cup and claimed a gold medal at the Pan Asian Games in 2000, but this sporting success didn’t translate to financial stability until he transitioned from wrestling into MMA.

“MMA gives wrestlers an opportunity to make money like never before. A former wrestler can now use a skill that they spent most of their lives learning to have a career in MMA and more young people are getting into wrestling now because MMA helps to create an excitement to learn wrestling,” he said.

Henderson first fought for the UFC in 1998 at a time when he could never have predicted just how mainstream the sport would eventually become, but he is happy that, as MMA has enjoyed stratospheric growth, wrestling has effectively hitched along for the ride.

“People watching the UFC see wrestling in almost every fight. Now they realize they must learn wrestling if they want to be a successful fighter one day, or just to learn a proven effective martial art,” he said.

Henderson was one of the early pioneers who blazed a trail from the wrestling mat to the MMA ring and eventually the cage. Nowadays, the UFC is awash with fighters who have wrestled at an NCAA Division One level and at UFC 161 Hendo will be facing an opponent who followed a similar route into the sport.

Rashad Evans had a very successful collegiate wrestling career before making his way into the UFC via TUF 2. Henderson says he doesn’t know quite what to expect from Michigan State alumni.

“Rashad is difficult to predict on how he is going to come out and fight,” said Henderson. “I don’t know whether he will want to come out wrestling or stand-up. Either way, I am prepared for a wrestling match or a stand-up battle. He is well rounded and very tough, it should be an exciting fight.”

Henderson has won titles with both Strikeforce and Pride and also has that 1998 UFC tournament win to his name, but he has yet to win a UFC belt in the modern era, losing by decision to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in a 2007 fight for 205-pound honors and being submitted by Anderson Silva the following year when the 185-pound strap was at stake.

He had been on course for another title shot after a run of four consecutive victories against opponents including Fedor Emelianenko and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Injury initially delayed a proposed match-up with Jon Jones. Then a disappointing split decision defeat at the hands of Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 saw the winning streak snapped and effectively ended Henderson’s chances of securing an immediate championship fight.

At this stage of his career, and with new contenders emerging all the time, it’s going to be tough for Henderson to work his way back up the ladder towards another title shot, but he says he has not given up hope of challenging for the belt currently owned by Jones.

“(A title shot) is absolutely one of my goals, but there is a bunch of tough up-and-coming fighters out there that would be good fights for me. At this point I am focused on Rashad, but ultimately my goal is to win a UFC title,” he said.

Conventional wisdom used to state that a fighter could not continue far beyond their mid 30s, not at the elite level of a sport anyway. Then along came Bernard Hopkins and Randy Couture, who didn’t just challenge this misconception, they completely shattered it.

Hopkins is six years the senior of Henderson, while Couture didn’t decide to call it quits until he was 47. There are no hard and fast rules governing when a fighter should retire and with four wins in his last five fights, Hendo is still very much a force to be reckoned with in the UFC light heavyweight division.

When he does finally call time on his fighting career, Henderson already has a retirement plan in place, although – as you would expect from a man who has been consistently testing himself against the best possible opponents at a variety of places, promotions, weight classes and sports – he’s not exactly going to be taking it easy.

“I have just finished building out my new Team Quest location in Temecula, Calif. The new location will turn into ‘Dan Henderson’s Performance Training Center.’ It is a beautiful brand new building with over 18,000 square feet, complete with a 30-foot cage, 20-foot ring, over 5,000 square feet of mat space, 30 heavy bags, weight equipment, cardio machines, cross training area and new locker facilities. I will spend my time coaching and running my gym.”

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  • tyrone

    Dan henderson could ko jon jones but jones is too elusive to get hit with the bomb. I do however believe gus can certainly ko jones if he doesn’t get the jitters.he needs weidmans mindset for silva.weidman will ragdoll silva

    • Wow seriously

      Tyrone biggums. Reading what you type.. CRACK. Nuff said.

    • shakejunt

      gus is another interesting fight, but we’ve already seen him get handled by a wrestler. confidence will help, but this isn’t like silva-weidman at all.

  • JOE SHINE

    Dan is one tough dude

  • Sir_Roy

    I want to see Hendo fight Jones personally. That’s the LHW match-up I most want to see. I think stylistically it matches up extremely well. Should Hendo get past Evans (and I truly hope he does), this fight needs to happen before he retires.

    • Cereal Killer

      I’m a Rashad hater, but I think he will beat Dan. Dan vs Jon, no way! Dan is slow and never going to catch Jones with his one trick overhand.

      • Sir_Roy

        Rashad can win by decision. He has all the tools. That said, I don’t see Rashad beating Dan if Dan fights aggressively. But yeah, if Dan let’s Rashad fight his fight, then we’ll be in for another boring decision win for Rashad.

        Of course, a Hendo vs. Jones fight is Jon’s fight to lose. I mean, Jones is a heavy favorite without doubt. And yeah, with his reach and speed … Hendo won’t leave the fight looking any prettier that’s for damn sure. The thrill for me is knowing that Jones is in real danger. Kind of like GSP versus Hendricks. If Hendo connects, he can put anyone down. I would rather see Hendo get a crack at Jones before another Machida fight … but that’s just me.

      • Mark McDowall

        I agree I think Rashad will win if the right Rashad shows up, not the one that fought Lil Nog. But you can’t ever count out the H-Bomb because remember what happened when Rashad fought Michida…

        • Cptmats

          Agreed, If Rashad is in shape and motivated I think he will be too fast and slick for Henderson. There is always the chance of that right hand but i think that is Henderson’s only real chance. This is a five round fight too is it not ? Hendo was running on fumes by the end of the second against Shogun !

    • shakejunt

      the build-up would be fun, but the fight would just end being dan getting choked out early

  • Matt

    I love Hendo. It’s good to see that he has set himself up for when his career comes to an end…..which I hope is not soon! Very intelligent, tough fighter and person.

  • http://www.CombatScienceMMA.com/ CombatScienceMMA

    This man is a true legend of the sport. After fight at HW, LHW and MW the guy has only been stopped 3 times ever and all by submission. This fight with Rashad is going to be a great fight. Hendo had some trouble with Machida but who hasn’t.

    • JDMMA

      trouble with Machida ? what trouble, Machida was back paddleing for 15 mins, I can do that easily

      • http://www.CombatScienceMMA.com/ CombatScienceMMA

        That’s what every fan says who just wants to see two guys stand in front of each other and go strike for strike. It’s not realistic and it’s not part of martial arts at all. You may not like how he fought, but he used his skills to avoid damage by moving in and out and took the decision. Most other fighters still would have either been caught by Hendos H Bomb or he would have been able to clinch them and take them down.

        • Baller31

          I agree with JDMMA….if Machida was moving in and out and doing damage, that’s one thing…but he did 0 damage to Henderson and barely won a controversial split decision. That is not good martial arts. Martial means relating to war…and the way Machida fought was anything but warlike. What he did was refuse to engage in a war at all, which is not the same thing as winning.

          • http://www.CombatScienceMMA.com/ CombatScienceMMA

            He always fights like that, that’s his style. Machida just likes to pick guys apart when he sees openings. I like Henderson and Rashad so I’m not happy they have to meet while coming off losses and being in need of a win. This fight will be great though.

        • Cptmats

          I agree 100%
          I think it’s stupid when someone has enough sense to not stand and trade with someone like Diaz or Henderson and people call it running.
          Machida fought Henderson the same way he fights everyone the dif was Henderson was a little more patient and didn’t chase him around the way most do.

          • http://www.CombatScienceMMA.com/ CombatScienceMMA

            And the upset for Henderson was that even though he lost the decision he wasn’t stopped by Machida so it didn’t completely take him out of the picture. He’s still one of the top guys and still hasn’t been finished since 08′ by Anderson Silva. He does need this win against Rashad though.

  • E. Haymaker

    I was mildly disappointed with the Hendo-Machida fight, which was slightly due to both Machida’s elusiveness as well as Dan’s advanced age and ring rust. Evans looked just as bad when he lost to Lil Nog. I am hoping for them to turn the clock back to previous fight when they meet, but I cannot be certain the same won’t happen. Neither seems motivated to fight anymore.

    • shakejunt

      ^honesty

  • JDMMA

    Jones vs Henderson is way better than Jones vs Belfort or Sonnen, Jones wouldnt be able to take Hendo down so easily that I know for sure

    • Cptmats

      Sonnen is a better wrestler than Dan and Jones had no problem taking him down, he won’t have much trouble getting Henderson down.

      • Baller31

        Hendo has a better wrestling resume than Sonnen….although with age and condition I will agree that currently Sonnen is a better wrestler. The only variable is that Sonnen doesn’t have the KO power that Hendo does, and therefore Jones would likely be more hesitant about closing the distance.

  • julian moran

    Dan Henderson is better at everything, but it all comes down to how they will fight.

    Rashad will probably back paddle, trow big shots to transition to take downs and try to create some damage /finish from gnp.

  • Milosc

    Hard man

  • f ufc

    Dan Henderson is the BEST.

  • Edgar ontano

    I Think we all wanna see Jones V Hendo but its never going to happen even if he wins rashad i dont see him beating Tixeira, Gustaffson, or even Nogoueria. He should call it a career already.

  • robc

    Evans has more decision wins than anything else. He has finished an old tito, a shopworn forest, and an aging chuck in the last 5 years. He will probably use the same strategy Machida did, essentially pitty patter strikes and kicks will constantly moving backwards and disengaging. Works for Machida (who has 10 decision wins out of his 19 wins in total). Frankly Machida and Rashad bore the crap out of me. If I wanted to watch a sparring match, I’d tune into tournament karate… Henderson has tons of power but has slowed down and gases pretty quick. Funny how dan used to be called “decision dan” back in his pride days and now he knocks people silly

  • dgs

    “I don’t know whether he will want to come out wrestling or stand-up?”

    Hey Dan, I can answer that question for you. As a matter of fact Dan, if you read these message boards, you know, and I know, there is no way in hell Rashad is going to stand with you for any length of time. Ever since Machida KO’d him, he’s become more gun shy on the feet than GSP (and that’s saying something!”).

    No Dan, the only way Rashad beats you is by winning on points/positional dominance. Meaning, he’s going to shoot for the take down every chance he gets, and then he’s going to try and hold you on the ground once he gets you there. Keep it standing Dan, and you win the fight, period. If it becomes a wrestling match then Rashad may win, and I for one would HATE to see that happen.

  • Triggerman99

    “In a sport where extravagant nicknames are the norm, it says a lot about Dan Henderson that after 16 years as a professional mixed martial artist he still goes by the unpretentious moniker of ‘Hendo.’”

    Uhhh….. he went by “Dangerous” and “Hollywood” at points in his career FFS. I mean whatever, not a big deal, but you should probably check the facts before you write an article saying “it says a lot” about him to do something when in actuality, he did the exact opposite.