After appearing as a coach on the last season of The Ultimate Fighter, then knocking out Michael Bisping at UFC 100 which led to talk of a possible title-shot against Anderson Silva, things looked to be going well for veteran fighter Dan Henderson in the UFC this summer. Only a few short months later however circumstances have changed and the star is reported to be close to leaving the promotion after failing to agree terms on a new contract.
The first sign of a problem occurred when Vitor Belfort, who had only just returned to the UFC after a four year absence, jumped ahead of Henderson to be the next fighter to receive title shot against middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Henderson was clearly frustrated with the situation which left him facing a title eliminator with Nate Marquardt instead, telling sherdog.com recently, “I like Vitor (Belfort). He’s a good guy and he’s been around for a long time, but I just don’t understand why he gets to jump to the front of the line, especially when I beat him (back in 2006 at Pride 32).”
Despite this it would appear to be money that is the major stumbling block between the two parties.
I’m O.K. with fighting (Marquardt); we just have to come up with a deal. Basically anywhere’s a possibility, but I’d like to make things work with the UFC. I don’t know what they’re thinking. They haven’t gotten back to me at all since I flew out last week. I’m not trying to pin them over a barrel or anything. I feel like I was just undervalued before, especially toward the end of my contract,” he said at the beginning of the month.
Now, In a new twist to the story, Dana White has today spoken to Yahoo Sports Kevin Iole about the situation.
“We have a good relationship with Henderson, and there are no hard feelings,” White says. “He had a figure he believed he was worth, and we had our own figure, and we weren’t able to get together.”
The finality of that statement from White will surprise many who had expected the fighter to eventually come to terms on a deal which would appear to be beneficial to both parties.
Though the 39 year old is entering the twilight years of his career, henderson is still a threat in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions, and with interest in the fighter currently high after his previous highlight reel knockout, it would seem like good business for the UFC to keep him on the roster. On the other hand, with unfinished business remaining in the UFC for Henderson, it would seem like a contract extension would have been the preferred option for the fighter at this stage.
Now all eyes will be on a potential move to North America’s second largest promotion – Strikeforce, where a potential light heavyweight title showdown with Gegard Mousasi sounds like a mouth-watering prospect for many fans.
On his twitter account, Sports Illustrated’s Josh Gross is however warning people not to jump to conclusions on the matter.
“Don’t expect Henderson to make any moves before the Nov. 7 Strikeforce card on CBS. Again, he has not even been offered a deal.”
It would be wise not to rule out a possible reconciliation between Henderson and the UFC at this stage, but there’s no question that Strikeforce, and other leading promotions such as DREAM will be monitoring this situation very closely indeed.
We will of course keep you posted on any further developments in this developing story in the coming days and weeks.