BEHIND THE SCENES MMA ARTICLES & INTERVIEWS
Age Is Just A Number – A Dan Henderson Retrospective
By Christopher “sLapDatSuCKa” Jester
Would you believe Dan Henderson, a man of 41 years of age, who has had thirty-six pro MMA fights over fourteen years would still be competing at the highest level in MMA? Then what you would also find surprising is this former Olympian was also very close to being a chiropractor instead of a three time title holder. Just days away from a MMA dream matchup with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Henderson could possibly be one fight away from another title shot.
Born in Downey, California and raised in Apple Valley, California, wrestling was always an important aspect of Dan Henderson. His wrestling accomplishments in high school and college led him to compete in the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics. It was his wrestling pedigree that got him started in MMA.
Competition has always been stiff for Henderson. Even in the beginning he was facing top contenders. He defeated Alan Goes and future UFC Champion Carlos Newton all in one night at UFC 17. His competition against top contenders continued to grow when he participated in the King of Kings tournament. Some of these contenders include: Gilbert Yvel, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Renato Sobral. Over the next decade, Henderson would go on to fight top fighters Wanderlei Silva, Murilo Bustamante, Quinton Jackson, Vitor Belfort, Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin, and Fedor Emelianenko.
With wrestling as his base, most would think he would be the lay-in-pray or the ground-and-pound type. Unfortunately, for some his victims (Michael Bisping, anyone?) learned that Henderson’s right hand could do the trick. In some ways he prefers striking, as very few of his fights have been dull affairs.
With this much going for him, few should be surprised that he has accomplished so much. In 2005, he defeated Murilo Bustamante to become the Pride Welterweight Champion. Just two years later, he would avenge his first career loss to Wanderlei Silva and capture the Pride Middleweight title. When Zuffa bought Pride, Henderson attempted to unify his two Pride belts with then UFC Light-Heavyweight Champ Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and UFC Middleweight Champ Anderson Silva. He would lose both, respectively, but most MMA fans would see this failure forgiven as he would later become the man to silence Michael Bisping at UFC 100 with a killer right hand.
Contract disputes with the UFC sent Henderson to Strikeforce where a bid against Jake Shields for the Strikeforce Middleweight title would come up short. However, another victory over Renato Sobral in a title eliminator earned him a shot at Rafael Cavalcante’s Light-Heavyweight title, which Henderson would by KO in the third round.
Seemingly at the end of his career, most would wonder could a man of his age compete as well as he did before. A dream match against Fedor Emelianenko silenced any critics that Henderson may have had, as he knocked out the seemingly unstoppable heavyweight in the first round.
With Zuffa now the parent company of Strikeforce, Dan Henderson has entered the UFC again with a hot streak. On Saturday November 19, Henderson’s first fight back in the UFC is against Pride standout and former UFC Light-Heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. It is a fight that should elicit any MMA fan’s excitement. But it is without a doubt, despite his age, Dan Henderson’s will to fight shall not falter. And come Saturday night, he will prove once again age is just a number.
Dan “Hendo” Henderson for PDG by Machinemen