On Saturday night, in front of a rabid Brazilian crowd, we may have seen the last performance of MMA great Dan Henderson inside an UFC cage.
Let that resonate for a moment.
The former Olympian, former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion, and former PRIDE Middleweight and Welterweight Champions, may well not have his contract renewed by UFC. Dan Henderson is a first ballot Hall of Famer if that even exists. He has accomplished more in his career than most people could even dream of. He has also had a contentious relationship with UFC in the past.
While that may be here or there, it has been reported on mmamania.com that Henderson makes a whooping $250,000 per fight win or lose. For a fighter that has lost his last three, and one of those by a particularly vicious KO, it would seem he either has to renegotiate a contract or simply find the greener pastures of World Series of Fighting or Bellator.
Looking back at Henderson’s career since leaving UFC back at UFC 100, fans were very optimistic when Hendo debuted for the then second best MMA promotion in the United States, Strikeforce. Despite a loss to Jake Shields in his first fight, Hendo came back stronger than ever and won his next three fights.
Looking at those three fights, he won the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight title and defeated one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, Fedor. He seemingly was on an upswing in his career. Once Zuffa purchased Strikeforce, Henderson was brought back into UFC, and fans rightfully thought he would continue the upswing.
The fans were then treated to one of the best MMA fights in UFC history as Dan Henderson and “Shogun” Rua at UFC 139. Henderson won the hard fought battle…which sadly stands as his latest UFC win.
Since UFC 139, Henderson was injured leading up to UFC 151 and the entire event was cancelled. Looking back, there are so many questions and “what if” scenarios surrounding what could have happened if Hendo did fight UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones at that place in time. With four straight wins under his belt, and with his momentum coming from that UFC 139 battle, Hendo very well could have been in a position to wrest away the title from Jones.*
* – Side note: I truly believe if Henderson could have baited Jones into a standup fight much like Gustafsson did, Hendo very well could have either outpointed Jones or hit the H-Bomb.
However, with the injury and the cancellation of the event, Hendo was never guaranteed to receive the title shot he earned with the Rua fight. He was put into a fight, not even a title eliminator, with Lyoto Machida…and lost that fight in a somewhat controversial judging decision. He followed that fight up with a disappointing effort against Rashad Evans where he lost by decision again. To sum up the trifecta, Vitor Belfort became the first fighter to KO Hendo.
Of note, Henderson feels this was just “unfortunate luck” concerning his current losing streak:
One thing that has perplexed me at this point in Henderson’s career is that he has forgotten his Olympic wrestling background. I can not say with any degree of certainty when the last time I saw Henderson go for a shoot. I can not say when the last time I saw Henderson get a takedown. He has put all of his stock into his right hand, and at this point, he HAS to make some type of gameplan changes.
Obviously, Dan Henderson is at the crossroads of a long and illustrious (Hall of Fame) career. We have seen it before when guys have stuck around too long. Chuck Lidell comes crashing into the mind’s eye when you look at his last several UFC fights (the KO by Rich Franklin is what sent him into retirement). Is Dan Henderson at 43 worth the money he commands?
For the UFC, it’s doubtful. For WSOF, it’s even more doubtful. Bellator may welcome someone with the name value that Hendo brings, but not at that price, and not when they put faith into Tito Ortiz just earlier this year.
Whatever happens at this point is far too early to tell and is clearly speculation on my part. I would hope Dana White and UFC see the value in a Hall of Famer like Dan Henderson. And, I would hope Dan Henderson sees the value of staying with the UFC at this point. UFC can put Hendo in a sort of spoiler/gatekeeper role that Frank Mir currently enjoys. Whatever the case may be, Dan Henderson has always brought class and dignity to a somewhat brutal sport. He has won championships around the world. He is a true world class athlete. Hopefully, UFC remembers that when negotiations take place.
Listen on Wednesday Night as Dean and Chris breakdown the UFC Fight Night main event between Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson, LIVE on HIAC Talk Radio!
- UFC: Vitor Belfort firmly in title picture aftert knocking out Dan Henderson in … – SkySports (topbreakingnews.info)
- UFC Fight Night 32: Vitor Belfort KOs Dan Henderson (vancouverobserver.com)