There is only one thing missing from Dan (Hendo) Henderson’s trophy case: A UFC championship belt.
Over the course of his career, the two-time Greco-Roman wrestling Olympian has won the UFC 17 tournament, the RINGS King of Kings 1999 tourney, the PRIDE 2005 welterweight (183 pounds) grand prix, the PRIDE welterweight championship, the PRIDE middleweight title (205 pounds) and the Strikeforce light-heavyweight strap.
Despite being one of the most decorated fighters in MMA, Henderson has failed to obtain UFC gold on two separate occasions.
The first saw him lose a unanimous decision to then 205-pound titleholder Quinton (Rampage) Jackson at UFC 75 on Sept. 8, 2007. His was then submitted by middleweight kingpin Anderson (The Spider) Silva six months later at UFC 82.
But Henderson is hoping the third time will be a charm when he challenges UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon (Bones) Jones in the main event of UFC 151 in Las Vegas on Sept. 1. The card will feature a welterweight co-main event between Jake Ellenberger and Jay Hieron.
The MMA legend said he won’t the the title slip through his fingers.
“It would pretty cool to have that, as well,” Henderson said over the phone. “It is one thing I haven’t been able (to accomplish) and I would like to attain that belt before I’m done fighting.
“This is my opportunity and I don’t want to waste it.”
Henderson knows he has his work cut out for him.
Jones has looked as unstoppable as any fighter on the UFC roster lately, picking up victories over Jackson, Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans in his past three outings.
Henderson admitted he’s impressed with Jones’ rapid progression.
“As a fighter, he’s very talented and he’s improving with every fight,” Henderson said. “He’s very unorthodox and he’s developed a style that’s great for his body type.
“Watching video of his fights now, when I see his progression, he’s definitely improved a lot in the last two or three years. He’s only going to get tougher.”
Of course, Henderson has been equally impressive as of late, knocking out Renato Sobral, Rafael Cavalcante and Fedor Emelianenko before winning a thrilling unanimous decision Mauricio (Shogun) Rua in his UFC return nine months ago.
But one of the toughest obstacles for Henderson will no doubt be Jones’ freakish reach advantage — 84.5 inches, compared to Henderson’s 71. Not only does Henderson have a lot of ground to cover in order to touch Jones’ chin with his vicious overhand right, the light-heavyweight champ is also excellent at dictating the distance of a fight.
But this won’t deter Henderson, who’s confident he can get inside and inflict damage.
“(Keeping opponents at a distance) is something that he’s been really effective at,” Henderson said. “It seems like it’s thrown some people off. I just need to make sure that I go out there and fight my fight, not his fight.
“I have to follow my game plan. I’ve got some guys training with me that are pretty long, as well. I feel like I’m used to the distance. It’s just those little things, small adjustments, that I have to make. I feel like I’ll be ready to go.”
Henderson will celebrate his 42nd birthday on Aug. 24. When he steps into the cage with Jones he will be the second oldest fighter to compete in a UFC title bout behind Randy Couture, who lost the heavyweight championship to Brock Lesnar at age 45.
When Henderson first entered MMA, he was just looking to make some money and continue with his wrestling career. Fast forward 15 years and he’s still one of the best fighters in the world.
Henderson said he isn’t shocked he has remained at the top of the sport for so long.
“It’s just something I’ve been doing and striving to improve and get better at,” Henderson said “It’s almost like I expect myself to be up there, so it’s not like I’m surprised by anything I’m doing.
“I try to treat every fight similar. Some of them were pretty big and important, but I’m always trying to win. I’m always trying to give 100%. I’ll be doing that for this fight, as well.”
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Tarec Saffiedine def. Roger Bowling via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Anthony Smith def. Lumumba Sayers via first-round submission (triangle choke)
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