Older but wiser Dan Henderson returns to UFC with eye on two titles


No one leaves the UFC voluntarily. Dan Henderson broke that unwritten rule back in 2009 when he bolted for a bigger deal with Strikeforce. It appeared that he'd never fight for Dana White again, but crazy things happen in the world of MMA.

A nasty win streak combined with Zuffa's unexpected purchase of Strikeforce, has Hendo right in the middle of the mix again with the UFC. The former PRIDE middleweight and light heavyweight champ faces a fellow PRIDE veteran and former UFC 205-pound champ Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the main event of UFC 139 tomorrow night in San Jose, Ca.

"I didn't know what to expect," Henderson told UFC.com's Tom Gerbasi. "When I left the UFC and went to Strikeforce, I didn't know what was in the future. It was always a possibility; I knew the UFC wasn't going anywhere and I know I didn't leave on bad terms at all, so it was a matter of how things worked out at Strikeforce. And (UFC President) Dana (White) missed me so much he had to go buy Strikeforce."

At the time, White thought Henderson (28-8, 5-2 UFC) wasn't worth the money he was getting from Strikeforce and that his style wasn't that crowd pleasing. Henderson changed that image by turning off the lights of Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Rafael Cavalcante and Fedor Emelianenko. Amazingly, he posted those dynamic finishes of three veteran fighters at the ages of 40 and 41.

Henderson seems to be getting better. The former Greco-Roman wrestling Olympian (1992 and 1996) says he's gotten more proficient at pinpointing what he needs to do before and during fights to counter the aging process.{ysp:more}

"[...] Give me a week and I'll give you a list of what I used to be able to do. But the key is experience, knowing that I can relax in a lot of places where I used to not relax. I could keep going back then, but now I go when I need to go, and I put my energy and strength in the right places."

An impressive win by Henderson could put him in line for a title shot against Anderson Silva at middleweight or 205-pound phenom Jon Jones. Chael Sonnen showed holes in Silva's game. Jones is slowly earning the label of unbeatable, but Henderson doesn't agree.

"I do think that would be a fight I would enjoy. He's awkward and unorthodox and it creates something to think about and how to beat that, and that's what excites me these days," Henderson said. "I'm not one to buy into things too quickly. I've been doing this for a long time and seen a lot of guys beat a lot of tough guys really quick and then die out. I think he's going to be around a long time, he's just going to get better. But at this point he's still got a lot to improve on, and he's athletic and talented and he does learn. He's got a huge future, but I think he's got a little ways to go."

Henderson is excited about his future which could resemble a Randy Couture or Bernard Hopkins-like run down the stretch.

"I do this for the challenge as well, and not saying there's not tough guys to challenge me in Strikeforce, but the bigger fights and better matchups for me right now are in the UFC, so I think I will be retiring in the UFC, and not somewhere else," he said. "I'm not retiring soon, but I won't be going anywhere and I'll be fighting the remainder of my fights in the UFC I'm sure."

Anyone willing to bet against Henderson? With what we've seen recently, who can doubt him?

Watch UFC 139 right here on Yahoo! Sports

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