When Dan Henderson steps into the Strikeforce cage on Saturday night, it would seem there’s a lot on the line for the veteran fighter.
Henderson is coming off a loss from his debut with the promotion in which he dropped a unanimous decision to Jake Shields. He’s also going back to light heavyweight for a rematch with Renato “Babalu” Sobral from a fight the two had back in 2000. Add on to that the fact that Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has announced the winner will get a shot at the light heavyweight title with a win.
Put all that together and it could get to the best fighter in the world, but Henderson insists he’s as cool as the other side of the pillow.
“None of that plays into my mind,” Henderson said about his mindset when speaking with MMAWeekly Radio. “I just want to make sure that I perform well, which I kind of failed to do in my last fight. I just want to make sure to perform well through the whole fight, and it will all take care of itself.”
While Henderson has fought Babalu previously, their bout was more than a decade ago, and both fighters have evolved astronomically from that night. The one similar trait that Henderson knows Sobral still carries from that fight, however, is his undying mentality to win.
“He’s very tough, he’s very well rounded. He’s tenacious, he’s aggressive, and kind of stays after you,” said Henderson about Sobral. “He doesn’t have a hugely fast pace, but really still kind of stays in your face. He keeps the pressure on the whole fight.”
Aggressive. In your face. Keeps the pressure on. Those would also be ways to describe Henderson as a matter of fact, which is why this match-up intrigues him so much.H e respects Babalu, but not so much that he thinks his opponent has any definite advantages in this fight.
“I guess it’s a little bit similar to me, but I feel like I’m a little bit more dangerous than he is,” Henderson admitted.
Babalu called for the fight with Henderson following his win over Robbie Lawler back in June, but not because there’s any bad blood between the two fighters, just because it’s a fight he wanted to have a second chance at. Henderson holds no ill will towards the Brazilian either, and it can’t be ignored that this fight does have a different feeling to it than his last two encounters.
Prior to leaving the UFC, Henderson was engaged in an epic battle of words with Michael Bisping during their time coaching on the ninth season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” What resulted was Henderson blasting through the Brit with a thunderous right hand that left Bisping laying motionless on the canvas.
Henderson’s last trip to the cage had plenty of implications as well with opponent Jake Shields heading into free agency, and just about everyone in the world picking the Temecula, Calif., resident to win. This time around, while there is a title shot on the line, Henderson isn’t letting any of the outside stuff get to him.
“I was pretty much going after those guys trying to beat them up, too,” Henderson explained. “It’s a matter of I know how I needed to perform each fight. With the Jake Shields thing, it was in the back of my mind a little bit, worried about the weight cut, but I thought that I could handle it. That would be the only difference as far as my mindset goes going into each fight.”
For the fight with Sobral, Henderson is keeping his approach simple and to the point.
“I just want to make sure I implement my game plan, and come out and knock him silly.”