Dan Henderson oozes a special breed of toughness inside the UFC Octagon.
At UFC 173 against Daniel Cormier, Henderson was beaten, battered and broken before succumbing to a rear-naked choke in the fight's final frame.
He was tossed on his head.
He was punched and elbowed in the jaw.
He was choked unconscious.
And he got up, dusted himself off and cracked jokes in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.
That's a little nuts, ladies and gentlemen, and it's only one example of many that showcases Henderson's composure under fire inside the cage.
Next to the word “man” in the dictionary is a picture of Dan Henderson.— Marc Raimondi (@marc_raimondi) May 25, 2014
At this point, though, one has to wonder when enough is enough for Henderson. It's clear that his own mind won't let him stop—his comments in the aforementioned post-fight interview asserted as much.
Rogan pointed him in a direction that would have made it easy to say "I think this is it. Thank you for everything," but that thought never crossed Hendo's mind.
"I'm not done yet. I'm still going to compete," Hendo replied when asked about his future.
Of course that's what he said.
Hendo is a competitor. He knows nothing but competing, nothing but excellence in combat.
Even before he began his career as a professional mixed martial artist in 1997, he was competing in wrestling tournaments, winning high school state championships and later representing the U.S. in the Olympics.
Dan Henderson placed in the California State Wrestling Championships in 1987 and 1988, friends. There are several UFC fighters who weren't even alive then.
His sister, Selanee Henderson, is a professional golfer. There's something in that family's genetic pool that makes them intense competitors capable of competing at the highest levels in whatever they decide to do.
So, to fully understand Henderson and his undying resolve as a fighter, you have to understand that this is what he does, what he knows and what he loves.
He's been beaten or beaten up in each of his last eight fights, yet he's emerged the victor in four of them. His devastating power and (until recently) impenetrable chin were enough to keep him in any fight, and they are enough to keep him thinking he needs to push onward toward his next challenge.
He keeps coming back for more.
Dan Henderson is such a man. He's 43 & basically the size of a UFC welterweight, and fighting a guy who was a top 5 heavyweight. #UFC173— Mike Chiappetta MMA (@MikeChiappetta) May 23, 2014
It's that competitive fire again.
At 43 years old, Henderson remains in his athletic prime at heart. He's played a role in some of the sport's most epic brawls throughout his 17-year professional career and only recently started to consistently come out on the wrong end of them.
It's clear that his body is older, that his physical skills are no longer what they once were. He's slow and plodding, a one-trick pony looking for the big knockout and the big knockout only.
That doesn't work in today's UFC, but don't tell Hendo that.
Not sure how to feel about this one. Dan Henderson is a God amongst us mere mortals. We could only pray to be hendo on our best day— FrontRowBrian (@FrontRowBrian) May 25, 2014
He won't listen, anyway. He knows only dishing and receiving punches.
Cormier wrecked him in every possible way at UFC 173, and Hendo reacted with a smile, a joke and a look to his future fights just seconds later.
For better or worse, that's Dan Henderson.
He's an old-school fighter barely treading water in a new-school game, but as long as his head's above water, he considers himself Michael Phelps.
And that's just perfect. This story will play itself out but on Hendo's terms and Hendo's terms only.
Whatever keeps him going is in his blood, and no amount of criticism or failure is going to change that.