Dan Henderson and the Best 40-Plus Fighters in MMA History
It is often said that fighting is a young man’s game, but now and again a Benjamin Button-like figure will come along and defy conventional wisdom.
While the rest of their generation has one eye on their pensions, these fighters continue to mock biology with every punch thrown and every shot taken.
This list celebrates those fighters who continued to compete and win as though it was an integral part of their mid-life crisis.
Read on for a rundown of the greatest over-40 fighters in MMA history.
The trajectory of Mark Hunt’s career has me regretfully groping for fine wine references. I abhor cliche, but sometimes you just have to embrace the trite.
Although an outstanding kickboxer, Hunt struggled to find similar success in MMA. Like many exceptional strikers, he didn’t really take to the grappling side of the sport when he competed in Pride.
When he was submitted by Sean McCorkle in his UFC debut at UFC 119, no one was particularly surprised. It’s what happened next that shocked everyone, probably including Hunt.
The New Zealander put together four wins in a row against the likes of Stefan Struve and Cheick Kongo.
Hunt’s streak eventually came to an end when he ran into Junior dos Santos last year, but he once again defied expectations when he fought to a spectacular draw with Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in his most recent outing.
He may be a new member of the over-40 club, but Hunt has more than earned his spot on this list.
Dan Severn is a little different than most of the fighters on this list. While the UFC 5 tournament champion is certainly one of the sport’s true legends, he ceased competing at the highest level only a few years into his mixed martial arts career.
Instead, he competed for countless smaller promotions for more than a decade, accumulating an absurd record of 101-19-7.
“The Beast’s” most recent fight took place in 2012, when he was 53 years old. And he won.
We now move onto Mark Coleman, the man who snatched the torch from Dan Severn’s hands at UFC 12.
Having witnessed what an elite wrestler like Severn could do inside the cage, Coleman, a former Olympian, decided to try his hand at this Ultimate Fighting business.
The results were pretty spectacular.
Now a UFC Hall of Famer, he became the first UFC heavyweight champion in 1997, before moving to Pride FC and winning the 2000 Openweight Grand Prix.
While “The Hammer’s” skills didn’t evolve enough to compete with modern mixed martial artists, he ended his career as a UFC competitor at the age of 46 and officially retired from competition at 48.
And now we come to arguably the most obvious entry, Randy Couture. Indeed, “The Natural” didn’t even start his MMA career until he was 34.
When he stepped into the cage against Tony Halme at UFC 13, even he couldn’t have imagined that he would become one of the sport’s most recognizable names.
And while the former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion doesn’t possess the most impressive record on paper (19-11), it’s hard to criticise him in light of the level of competition he consistently faced.
Couture’s last reign as a UFC champion came to an end when he was 44, and he officially retired at the age of 47 while still competing at the highest level of the sport.
Like the previous entry, Dan Henderson’s spot on the list is a no-brainer. Indeed, he has arguably eclipsed Couture’s legacy in recent years.
From his title-winning efforts in Pride and Strikeforce to his age-defying feats inside the Octagon, the fact that Hendo has thus far failed to capture UFC gold almost doesn’t matter.
The former Olympian turns 44 later this year, yet he continues to confound our expectations.
While there is some evidence that Henderson’s abilities are on the decline, he remains able enough to best the likes of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.
A UFC title will likely always elude him, but would anyone bet against Henderson hanging around at the top of the sport for a few more years?