Henderson, UFC fail to come to terms

Dan Henderson’s career with the Ultimate Fighting Championship has ground to a close in a contract stalemate, and the former two-division PRIDE champion appears on the verge of signing a deal with the rival Strikeforce promotion.

Henderson, 39, devastatingly knocked out Michael Bisping in the second round of their heavily hyped fight on July 11 at UFC 100 in Las Vegas, in the final fight of his contract.

The two-time former U.S. Olympic wrestler had hoped to use that victory as a springboard to a middleweight title match against Anderson Silva.

But Silva and his manager, Ed Soares, weren’t keen on fighting Henderson again and didn’t think he’d done enough to warrant a rematch. Silva submitted Henderson in the second round of their title fight at UFC 82 on March 1, 2008. Since then, Henderson defeated Rousimar Palhares, won a split decision over Rich Franklin and knocked out Bisping.

UFC president Dana White went back-and-forth on whether he’d make Silva-Henderson II, but said at UFC 103 in Dallas that he would give the next shot at Silva to Vitor Belfort, after Belfort scored a first-round knockout of former middleweight champion Rich Franklin.

Henderson could not be reached for comment Friday, but White confirmed he was unable to come to terms with Henderson. White indicated the company’s contractual right of first refusal had expired and they would not seek to match contract offers Henderson may receive. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker did not return phone calls.

White, though, said he wanted to re-sign Henderson but couldn’t agree on the money in a new deal.

“We have a good relationship with Henderson, and there are no hard feelings,” White said. “He had a figure he believed he was worth, and we had our own figure, and we weren’t able to get together.”

Henderson is 25-7 overall and 5-2 in the UFC. He is the only man in mixed martial arts history to simultaneously hold championships in two different weight classes. He was its 183-pound champion when he knocked out Wanderlei Silva to become its 205-pound title-holder as well.

He moved to the UFC after defeating Wanderlei Silva and was immediately put into a PRIDE vs. UFC championship match against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 75 on Sept. 8, 2007, in London. Jackson won a unanimous decision.

White said he was disappointed to lose Henderson, but said he was confident the UFC would be able to recover.

“We always find a way,” White said.

Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Friday, Oct 16, 2009