Dan Henderson has a vested interest.
Positioned with the option to fight either Lyoto Machida or Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, the former Pride light heavyweight and middleweight champion said no.
Taking on Rua in a rematch of one of the best fights in UFC history did not appeal to Henderson. Nor did a fight with Machida, the man who recently knocked out his former training partner Randy Couture.
Henderson passed on the fights because he has one goal. He wants to be UFC light heavyweight champion.
To win the title belt, he’ll have to beat the winner of the upcoming April 21 bout between champion Jon Jones and top contender Rashad Evans.
Henderson has his preference of opponent.
“I think Jon Jones is a better fight for me,” Henderson said to Bleacher Report’s Gary Herman. “His style matches up better. Jones will stand-up with me more.”
The former Greco-Roman Olympian gave a somewhat surprising answer as to why he is not as interested in fighting Evans.
“Rashad is real well-rounded,” Henderson said about the former UFC champion. “He’ll stand and bang with me a little, but he’ll be trying to put me on my back—a lot more than Jones would.”
Jones, however, appears to be the tougher fight. He has pretty much torn through the light heavyweight division. Jones is 9-1 in the UFC. The only loss was due to an illegal blow in a fight he was dominating against Matt Hamill. In the 10 bouts, Jones has not been seriously hurt.
“Jones is real awkward and kind of poses a different threat,” Henderson said. “He’s awkward, unorthodox and a little tougher to figure out, and that’s also what intrigues me about it—he’s different.”
Before announcing his intention to fight the winner of the Jones vs. Evans bout, UFC president Dana White gave Henderson the option of dropping down a weight class to fight for the middleweight championship.
In his prior UFC stint, Henderson lost to middleweight champion Anderson Silva. While he currently prefers the light heavyweight division, Henderson has not ruled out a return match with the champion.
Silva, however, already has a big fight coming up. In June, he is slated for a rematch against another of Henderson’s former training partners, Chael Sonnen.
In the first fight with Sonnen, Silva pulled off a spectacular submission victory in the fifth round. Sonnen thoroughly dominated Silva for the first 28 minutes before Silva locked in a triangle.
Henderson is looking forward to the June bout.
“As long as Chael fights the way he did the last time with the exception of the last couple of minutes,” Henderson said, “he’ll most likely win.”
Should Sonnen take the title, Henderson would not fight for the championship. He is, however, still interested in avenging the prior loss.
“I’m not real keen on fighting 185 right now unless it’s Anderson,” the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion said, “so if Chael wins, I’d maybe still fight Anderson. Who knows?”
Before Henderson decides about a potential Silva rematch, he will first compete for the light heavyweight championship. As for who he expects the opponent to be, Henderson offered a cautious prediction.
“If I had to bet money, I’d put it on Jones,” Henderson said, “but I’d say Rashad has a real good chance. It’s going to be a close fight.”