Dan Henderson has accomplished as much as any fighter in the world of mixed martial arts. He has won titles all around the world and fought as impressive a list of fighters as anyone in the sport, yet he strives for more.
After a rough start in his return to the UFC in 2007, Henderson won his last three fights, including one of the most spectacular knockouts in the company's history when he put Michael Bisping to sleep last July at UFC 100. It seemed he would be receiving a second shot at Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.
Henderson's relationship with Dana White and the rest of the UFC brass fell apart shortly after his fight with Bisping. He signed with Strikeforce in December and he'll face Jake Shields this Saturday for the Strikeforce Middleweight title.
The 39-year-old MMA legend recently sat down with Bleacher Report to discuss a variety of topics including fighting for Strikeforce, Jake Shields, and his departure from the UFC.
"So far it's been great," Henderson said of being associated with Strikeforce. "The fighters here have more freedom to do what they want outside the cage. There's less red tape to cut through for endorsements and opportunities away from fighting. If there is a chance for me or anyone to make extra money, we don't have to sit around and get his (Dana White) approval. It takes away some stress and makes it more relaxed outside the cage."
Although the perception is that only the best fighters in the world are in the UFC, Henderson knows that isn't the case. He has the utmost respect for his opponent, Jake Shields, and the problems the champion can create for him.
"Jake is a dangerous guy," he said when asked about the Middleweight champion. "There's a lot of things he can do that could put me in trouble. He can take a guy down, ground and pound him, and hit a submission. I need to avoid all that if I want to pick up the win."
Henderson is no stranger to facing great competition. There may be no fighter in the world that has the resume that he has. While his past experience doesn't make him come into a fight cocky, it does give him the confidence to face anyone.
"Every fight poses problems for me," he said. "I just have to formulate a game plan and stick with it. I want to keep the fight with Jake standing, and try to knock him out. Sure, I've been submitted by guys like (Anderson) Silva in the past, but I'm not going to allow myself to get into a bad position. I think I can stop him from taking me down, and then I'll look to finish the fight."
Some would see Henderson entering this fight with a ton of pressure since this will be his first fight with Strikeforce, and he could potentially have a brand new audience watching him on CBS. He may be a household name in the MMA community, but he will be seen for the first time by a whole new crop of fans. Taking it all in stride, the California native takes a different approach.
"I don't see any of this as pressure at all," he said, "It's exciting. I get to fight on national television with a ton of new fans watching me. I'm pretty confident that they'll like what they see and that excites me. Plus the fact I get to beat up Jake Shields, that excites me too."
While Henderson expects to win, he's still unsure of his future plans in Strikeforce. However, he will keep one eye on the Gegard Mousasi-King Mo fight on the card as well.
"I'm just going to wait and see how things play out," he said. "I'm open to whatever the fans want to see and what Strikeforce has plans for me.
"I'll be interested in Mousasi and King Mo. Mousasi is a skilled fighter and very relaxed inside the cage. Mo has a lot of potential and is very athletic. This will be Mo's biggest test for sure. It's a big step up for him to face Mousasi, so we'll see how he does against him."
While Henderson's present and future is with Strikeforce, everyone knows he had a less-than-happy departure from Dana White and the UFC. He opened up when asked about it, giving his view on why he's no longer with the biggest MMA company in the world.
"I put out what I thought was a fair offer for my services, and they offered me a lot less," Henderson said. "It's just a matter that I thought I wasn't getting fair value for myself. If he (Dana White) is truly sincere about wanting the sport to grow, he could probably do that. He'd be supporting the Strikeforce card on CBS, but I'll probably send him a text and invite him."
When asked more about White, his comments became very interesting.
"I think he is a true fan of the sport, but he wants to build the sport in a way to make himself more money along the way," Henderson said of White. "He's motivated by money and what's going to make him and the UFC more money, but I do know he's a fan of the sport."
Some feel that the fighters in the UFC are underpaid and under-appreciated, and Henderson agrees with those thoughts.
"I think he does take the fighters for granted," he said. "The payout scale in MMA is much different than boxing. The promoter gets the majority of the money in MMA as opposed to boxing where the fighters get the lion's share. The fighters should get more money than they do. We are the ones out there entertaining the fans and putting ourselves on the line. Why should we help someone make more money when it doesn't really benefit us? That's why Strikeforce is nice, it's more of a group venture as opposed to the UFC just promoting themselves and taking all the money."
Although Dan Henderson is in the twilight of his career, it's obvious he still has a lot to accomplish both in and out of the cage. Saturday night will begin the next chapter in his storied career, but it's far from the final one.
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