There’s no slowing down Dan Henderson
By Kevin Iole, Yahoo Sports
The third generation of mixed martial artists, if you will, is beginning to put its stamp on the sport.
Men such as Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and rising star Jon Jones are giving fans a glimpse of what the next 10 or 15 years may look like.
But Dan Henderson is still around as proof that the old way of doing things isn’t so bad. Henderson, who fights Michael Bisping in a middleweight bout at UFC 100 on July 11 in Las Vegas, is a product of the days when Sen. John McCain was calling the sport “human cockfighting” and political pressure kept UFC broadcasts off cable and satellite television.
Henderson is nearly 38 and hasn’t learned any of his moves by watching YouTube. He was wrestling in the Olympics when Jones was only days past his fifth birthday.
Yeah, he’s old. He’s grizzled. But you know what? He’s also still plenty good.
And while he’s sustained injuries to nearly every part of his body during his athletic career, Henderson still feels good enough that he says it’s conceivable he’ll fight four or more years.
“My body still feels good,” Henderson said. “I can still do this.”
That he can. He’s coming off a disputed win over Rich Franklin at UFC 93 in Dublin, Ireland, which landed him a coaching spot on Season 9 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Henderson has an understated, wry sense of humor and wasn’t over the top like some of the previous coaches on the show. But in his own way, he helped make a compelling television program.
“A lot of people thought Dan would be too laid-back,” Spike executive Brian Diamond said. “But his sarcasm and wit and that trademark grin of his spoke volumes. He was a phenomenal coach, if you ask me.”
Henderson is extremely popular with the sport’s longtime fans, who know of his many conquests in the PRIDE Fighting Championships.
And they might love him even more if they only knew that once, in the dressing room before a UFC card, he put a body lock on surprised UFC president Dana White and slammed him to a mat.
“Everybody loved it,” Henderson said, cackling. “They all wanted me to do it again.”
Bisping is one of the UFC’s most popular stars and is one of the men most responsible for the growth in popularity of MMA in the United Kingdom.
The winner of the bout may get a shot at UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in Manchester, England, in November, though that’s far from a certainty. White said he still wasn’t sure what his plan was for November, though the UFC just received permission from the Nevada Athletic Commission to hold a card in Las Vegas on Nov. 21.
But the fact there is talk of Silva defending his title in Manchester would only make sense if Bisping won, since it’s his hometown.
Henderson, who lost to Silva in 2008 in a bout that was perhaps Silva’s most difficult in the UFC, isn’t particularly concerned. He just issued a warning for all those who think he’s somehow no longer the fighter he once was.
As good as Bisping is, he’s yet to come anywhere near what Henderson has accomplished. This is the only man who held two championships simultaneously in a major-league promotion. He has wins over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Wanderlei Silva, Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Murilo Bustamante, Vitor Belfort and Franklin.
That’s a who’s who of the best of MMA of the early part of the 21st century, many of whom will wind up in the Hall of Fame.
Henderson doesn’t need to win another fight between now and when he retires to become a Hall of Famer, but he showed in January that he has plenty of high-level fights left in him.
“I wasn’t really happy with that fight because I kind of coasted in the third round,” Henderson said. “I knew I’d won the first two rounds and I’d tore some cartilage in my rib, way up near my chest, and I sort of coasted in in the third round.
“If people want to look past me, or if they think I’m done, that’s their problem. I look at myself as someone who is dangerous. I am on the top of my game still, I believe. Michael’s a good opponent and he’s dangerous, but so am I. He’s done a lot of good things, but he hasn’t fought me yet.”
What Bisping will find, win or lose, is that the son of the wrestler he’s facing doesn’t understand how to lose. He’ll never stop trying.
He doesn’t get beaten, he only runs out of time.
“Some days it’s a job and some days I love it, but when you’re still good at something, I don’t believe you walk away,” Henderson said. “I’m still getting better and still learning. And I still love beating people up and knocking guys out. So there’s no reason to give that up.
“I’ve got a lot of fight in me and I’m going to take advantage of that.”