Dan Henderson was at one time a popular star of the UFC, featuring in the co-main event of their historic UFC 100 event following a stint as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter season nine, before contract negotiations fell through with the promotion and led to him doing something that was practically unheard of, signing for their biggest rivals, Strikeforce.
In the wake of today’s news that the UFC have bought over Strikeforce, Henderson, who became their 205lb champion just last week with a win over Rafael ‘Feijao’, has left the door open for a return to the Octagon.
“I’ve never said anything bad about (the UFC),” Henderson tells MMAWeekly. “I always appreciated everything they’ve done for me and for the sport. It’s just I was paid more money to go elsewhere, and that’s what I did. Dana’s the type that needs to talk a little smack if he doesn’t get his way, but I’ve got no hard feelings about anything.”
Interestingly Henderson reveals he has just one fight left on his current Strikeforce contract, which means he’s likely to be the first big fighter from the promotion who the UFC could move in to purchase.
“I had no plans of leaving, but I have one fight left on my deal and we’ll see what happens,” Henderson said.
Interestingly, Dana White actually mentioned Henderson today during the announcement of the buyout as one of the people who he feels he has issues with over at strikeforce.
“There’s a lot of guys over at that side of the table that don’t like me. You’ve got the M-1 Global guys, Dan Henderson’s probably not a big fan either, you know,” he admitted to Ariel Helwani.
Henderson appears to be trying to dismiss the notion that he holds a grudge against White, but will that be enough for the UFC to welcome him back with open arms?
It’s hard to say for sure. Undoubtedly Henderson would be a good addition to the UFC ranks once more and would open up a number of interesting match-ups at both 185lbs and 205lbs.
The basic problem that forced Henderson to leave in the first place may still remain however – money.
In essence White claimed that Henderson was not worth the money he was demanding. Strikeforce thought differently and secured his signature instead, paying him $250,000 per fight, win or lose.
From a fighting perspective there’s no doubt that Henderson does deliver. Even at the age of 40 he’s still winning against top competition, and has only lost one of his last six fights, producing three highlight reel knockout wins during that period.
Despite that his box-office potential on the other hand is still questionable. His debut on Strikeforce against Jake Shields fronted a crucial show for Strikeforce on network television station CBS, but ended up being a ratings disappointment, while two subsequent appearances on Showtime have also failed to generate a significant ratings boost.
So it’ll be very interesting to see what happens. One things for sure though – last time Henderson appeared to be playing both the UFC and Strikeforce off against each other, but this time around it’s the UFC who hold all the cards.