Dan Henderson claimed a huge win over Fedor Emelianenko last night, adding another major scalp to his already impressive collection.
Though he’s now closing in on his 41st birthday in August Henderson is currently enjoying an upturn in his career, with his win coming after securing the light-heavyweight title with a victory over Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante earlier in the year.
Despite all this there is now uncertainty over Henderson’s future as this was the last fight on his current Strikeforce deal, so what does come next for the decorated veteran?
There’s no doubt last night puts Hendo in a strong bargaining position now as he looks to iron a new contract, but the fact that Zuffa now own Strikeforce makes what would likely have been a straight-forward contract renewal a more complex and uncertain affair.
Let’s not forget that Henderson was also on a high after his UFC contract finished in 2009, having just come of a stint as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter and having proceeded to KO Michael Bisping in spectacular fashion on the main card of the most watched MMA pay-per-view event of all time at UFC 100.
Though unquestionably a talented fighter Dana White did not feel Henderson had the drawing power to justify his lofty pay demands and so a stand-off ensued and eventually they parted ways with Strikeforce stepping in with a lucrative deal.
So two years on it will be interesting to see what happens now. Henderson’s pay demands are unlikely to have reduced since then which puts the ball firmly in the UFC’s court as to whether they feel that his recent wins now make him better value for money.
If not the question also arises as to whether the UFC’s parent company Zuffa will take a similar stance with a potential renewal of his Strikeforce deal. Rumor had it that it was always the plan for the loser of last night’s fight to be cut due to the big salaries that both men command, with Zuffa keen to trim down the promotion’s outgoings in order to make it a more profitable endevour.
For his part, Henderson last night left the door open for a return to the UFC, but also indicated he’d like to defend his Strikeforce title as well.
Scott Coker has also indicated his hope that he’ll stay with Strikeforce and If he was to do so there’s certainly fights there for him, with a title defense against Gegard Mousasi and potentially further down the line Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal being amongst the possibilities available to him, and who knows, maybe even a rematch with Fedor Emelianenko if he continues fighting.
As for the UFC, Henderson appears interested in the possibility of unifying the Strikeforce and UFC light-heavyweight titles, but it’s more likely that the UFC would want him to vacate his belt as Nick Diaz did with the 170lb strap if he was to head back to the Octagon.
It’s also questionable whether he would walk into a title fight at 205lbs, particularly with the likes of Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida currently lining up for a shot at current champion Jon Jones.
So really it’s all wide-open at this stage and there’s likely to be quite a bit of behind-the-scenes politics influencing where Hendo does eventually end up.
According to Team Quest trainer Daniel Woirin in an interview with TATAME his future could be “decided this week”, though that sounds ambitious to me. Let’s just hope that the contract negotiations don’t end up becoming too protracted as they were back in 2009.