For UFC stalwart and MMA legend Dan Henderson, his third trip through the world’s premier fighting organization has not gone to plan.
“Hendo” made his UFC debut at UFC 17, winning the night’s middleweight tournament. After UFC 17, he went overseas to compete in various promotions; most notably Japan’s Pride FC, where he accumulated numerous titles and had countless memorable fights.
In 2007, the UFC purchased Pride and Henderson found himself back in the company for the second time. After having a wildly successful second run, Henderson left the UFC for rival Strikeforce after a victorious highlight reel knockout over Michael Bisping at the historic UFC 100.
While competing in Strikeforce, Henderson earned the promotion’s light heavyweight title and scored a prized win over MMA enigma Fedor Emelianenko, thus positioning himself as the top-ranked 205-pounder on the planet not named Jon Jones.
Just as Henderson was gaining steam, Strikeforce was purchased by the UFC, as Dana White and the Fertitta brothers effectively put a stranglehold on the MMA world by eliminating their competitors.
And just like that, Henderson was back in the UFC for the third time in his illustrious career.
Henderson was scheduled to face Jon Jones in a light heavyweight title tilt at the now-extinct UFC 151. The Labor Day 2012 card was infamously cancelled after Henderson was injured and the UFC was unable to find a replacement to suit the company’s needs.
After losing his title shot to former teammate Chael Sonnen, (a bout that Sonnen lost against Jones at UFC 159 in April) Henderson was forced to take a step backwards in the line and fight former 205-pound champ Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 in February. Machida used a frustrating combination of elusiveness and well-timed striking to earn a lackluster split-decision victory over Hendo.
On Saturday night at UFC 161, Henderson was once again on the wrong side of the judges’ scorecards, as he fell victim to another former UFC light heavyweight champ, Rashad Evans.
Evans used well-timed aggression and a varied gameplan to keep Henderson off balance, and eventually tired him out en route to a split-decision victory.
For the 42-year-old, retirement talks are always looming. And with back-to-back losses in the Octagon – for the first time in years – those talks carry some validity. Don’t tell that to the former two-time Olympian, however, as Henderson has made plans with his family over the summer, but after that, it’s back to business as usual for the ageless wonder.
“I've got a couple trips planned with my kids this summer, so I'd at least like to have a summer this year and then get back in there before the end of the year,” stated the future first ballot Hall-of-Famer.
Putting any retirement talks to bed, Henderson was quick to place the blame on himself, and not his opponent – something he was less inclined to do when he faced the “running” Machida at UFC 157.
“I just left it up to the judges again,” he admitted. “I got nobody to blame but myself.”
What’s next for the MMA legend is still shaky, but a potential move to the middleweight division isn’t out of the question. After all, Henderson did battle middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva back at UFC 82 in March 2008 for the title, albeit suffering a second-round submission loss.
“I'd consider it,” said Henderson on a potential move to middleweight. “I don't feel weak or overpowered at 205. I would consider (185). I weighed in at 204 (for this fight) and didn't miss a meal.”
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