Dan Henderson's Departure Doesn't Worry the UFC

Darren WongSenior Analyst IOctober 31, 2009

INGLEWOOD, CA - MARCH 17:  Champion fighter Dan 'Hollywood' Henderson attends the IFL Fight Night at The Forum on March 17, 2007 in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images for IFL)
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Dan Henderson will be getting an offer from Strikeforce this week, according to Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker.

Henderson is considered to be the best current free agent in MMA, so he would unquestionably be a good pickup for Strikeforce. However, the UFC remains unconcerned with the possibility of Henderson's move to a rival promotion, and with good reason. However good Dan Henderson is, the UFC doesn't need him, and here's why.

Henderson fits well within the UFC's middleweight division-title picture. Should he re-sign with the UFC, he'll most likely be facing Nate Marquardt in a match to determine the next title contender after Vitor Belfort. Besides his fighting ability, however, he still hasn't shown that he brings enough pay-per-view buys to warrant the kind of money he is reportedly asking for.

Henderson has a few flashy knockouts, but isn't overly well known for his exciting style. If he's losing the striking exchanges, he can go into wrestling mode in order to attempt to secure the victory.

Furthermore, he hasn't exactly displayed the kind of personality that attracts the masses of fans. He's not easily excited, doesn't talk a lot of trash, and has a very dry sense of humor. It's always a sign of poor marketability when the best nickname people can come up with is a shortened version of your last name.

He's generally well liked, but not adored like the magnetic personalities of BJ Penn and Georges St-Pierre, or hated like Brock Lesnar.

UFC 100 reportedly brought in over one million buys, but that card was headlined by two proven bankable MMA superstars in GSP and Lesnar. The only pay-per-view card headlined by Henderson featured him opposite Anderson Silva, and reportedly garnered a very mediocre 325,000 buys.

The UFC's decisions are ultimately about successfully running the business, so it seems likely to me that if the UFC brass is unwilling to agree to terms with Henderson, it is simply because they believe that the signing wouldn't make financial sense.

Of course, it isn't simply about retaining Henderson's services, but also making sure that the competition isn't able to profit too much by signing Henderson.

Here as well, the UFC has little reason to worry.

If Henderson signs with Strikeforce, they'll be acquiring the services of a great fighter, but as I've already said, not necessarily a great draw. Here's a little experiment to prove it:

Go ask some of your non-hardcore MMA fan friends if they know who Dan Henderson is. They might recognize the name, but I doubt they'll be able to remember many of his fights.

Of course, Henderson does have that highlight reel knockout over Michael Bisping, but if Henderson doesn't re-sign with the UFC, that footage won't be making it into many new UFC highlight reels.

If Henderson signs with Strikeforce, expect the UFC's highlights featuring Henderson to look very onesided. Instead of seeing Hendo knocking out Bisping and Wanderlei Silva, or hitting Rampage Jackson and Rich Franklin, expect UFC highlights to show Wanderlei pounding on Henderson in their first Pride fight, Anderson choking Henderson out, as well as tons of punches and kicks landed by Jackson and Franklin.

Aside from marketing, it's interesting to consider what Henderson would do for the Strikeforce divisions. Since Henderson can fight at both middleweight and light-heavyweight, there are a lot of interesting matchups for him, but not necessarily ones that will be positive for Strikeforce.

If Henderson goes on a big tear in Strikeforce, and beats all of its good fighters, he'll actually be doing the UFC a gigantic favor. Gegard Mousasi and Mohammed Lawal are actually starting to really build some momentum as legitimate contenders at 205. If Henderson beats these guys, he'll essentially be taking away from their marketability.

The best possible outcome for Strikeforce would probably be for Mohammed Lawal, otherwise known as King Mo, to be the successful fighter at 205. He's probably got the most marketable persona out of those guys, and has the longest future ahead of him.

At 39 years of age, Henderson wouldn't be doing Strikeforce a lot of favors by winning and defeating its top prospects.

If on the other hand, Henderson loses, he validates Dana White's decision not agree to Henderson's demands, while costing Strikeforce a hefty amount of money.

All of this leads me to believe that while Henderson is a good acquisition for Strikeforce, in that he is a good fighter, the actual outcomes of adding Henderson to the Strikeforce roster might actually be bad for the promotion.

Henderson is a lot more valuable to a promotion like the UFC, where the depth of the divisions is great enough that it doesn't matter so much whether he wins or loses, but only that he's always fighting interesting fights.