Just five short months ago, former Pride and Strikeforce champion Dan Henderson saw the opportunity to finally add the UFC strap to his collection slip from his grasp.
He had been scheduled – after months and months of waiting – to challenge UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones for the one missing belt. Those plans, however, were nixed when Henderson had to withdraw from the fight due to a knee injury suffered in training.
During his recovery, the title shot he had been slated for slipped farther down the line.
Chael Sonnen was granted a TUF 17 coaching slot opposite Jones, and a shot at his belt at UFC 159 on April 27 in New Jersey.
So when Henderson finally steps in the Octagon at UFC 157 on Feb. 23, it will be against Lyoto Machida. It also will have been more than 15 months since he last fought.
That will never happen again. At least, not if he can help it.
“I’m not frustrated. I’m just happy to be in there fighting again,” Henderson told MMAWeekly.com. “I was more frustrated at my knee than anyone else.
“Obviously, I would have liked to have (the Jones) fight still. But we’re moving on.”
Henderson feels like the fight with Jones still could have happened, especially since he is now fighting Machida at an earlier date than when Jones faces Sonnen.
“It’s something that definitely could have happened, but for whatever reason, it didn’t, and that’s the way it goes.”
Besides landing Henderson in a different fight altogether, the situation has given the 42-year-old fighter a new perspective on the twilight years of his career.
“I’m not gonna wait around for a title fight anymore,” he declared. “I’m just gonna fight as much as I can.”
Part of the 15-month layoff was due to his decision, in agreement with UFC officials, to wait for a shot at the winner of Jon Jones and Rashad Evans. That turned out to be Jones, but then when he suffered an injury, the fight fell apart, Sonnen was slotted in ahead of him, and he wound up in his current position, fighting to stay in contention.
“It was a mutual decision on my part and the UFC’s part to wait for Jon Jones or Rashad (Evans), but I’m not gonna do it anymore. If the timing is not there, I’ll fight the next toughest guy out there.”
And that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Machida is one of the top 205-pounders in the world. He’s a former UFC champion and has one of the most elusive styles in the division. When other fighters talk about opponents with a puzzling style, Machida immediately jumps to the fore.
Henderson, however, appreciates the challenge set before him, and title shot or no title shot, he embraces fighting a man like Lyoto Machida.
“It’s a fun fight to figure a guy out like that,” said Henderson. “He’s not the normal guy, so that always makes it funner for me when it’s not always the same guys I’ve fought over and over again.”
Henderson and Machida square off in the UFC 157 co-main event in support of Ronda Rousey’s UFC bantamweight championship bout against Liz Carmouche on Feb. 23 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.