Whether it’s Josh Koscheck vs. Jon Fitch, Rashad Evans vs. Keith Jardine or Renato “Babalu” Sobral vs. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, training teammates have often refused to fight one another.
Dan Henderson is not one of those guys.
“I didn’t understand it,” Henderson said, when asked if he was surprised Sobral turned down a Strikeforce light heavyweight title shot with Lawal.
Henderson would not have had those same reservations.
“For sure,” Henderson said about fighting a teammate. “We beat each other up in practice—we might as well get paid for it.”
After defeating Robbie Lawler by unanimous decision in June 2010, Sobral was next in line for Lawal. Instead, Sobral called out Henderson.
“It’s just funny to me,” Henderson said about Sobral choosing him over Lawal. “Mo called me out too. I want to send a message that it is a bad idea to call me out.”
The fight between Henderson and Sobral will take place this Saturday night on Showtime live from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO.
For Henderson, the fight will mark his second trip into the Strikeforce cage. The first was an unsuccessful bout with Jake Shields. Shields won by unanimous decision.
“My body got a little too tired,” Henderson said. “I gassed.”
Henderson was also in the cage for the melee that occurred afterwards between Shields, Jason Miller, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz and more.
“My back was turned when it first happened,” Henderson said. “I turned around and there was this big pile with the Diaz brothers stomping on (Miller).”
“Bottom line is that it wasn’t good for the sport. Mayhem shouldn’t have been in there, and the Diaz brothers need to learn how to control themselves in certain situations.”
Henderson steered clear of the fracas.
“I didn’t get involved,” Henderson said. “A couple of my guys tried to break it up though.”
As a result of the loss to Shields, Henderson will move up in weight and once again campaign at 205 lbs. Throughout his career, he has leapfrogged back and forth. Henderson said that dealing with the weight cut sapped him of a lot of his energy.
“Its not fun to miss meals for a day-and-a-half or two days.” Henderson said. “I only weigh about 204. I feel like it’s a little more fun to fight at 205 since I don’t have to cut weight.”
Not only has Henderson fought at middleweight and light heavyweight, he also fought at heavyweight. Henderson took on former Pride and UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira back in 2002. Nogueira won by submission, but it is a matchup Henderson fondly remembers.
“I had a good time with that one,” Henderson said about the fight. “There was no pressure at all. I just went out there and had fun. Of course, that one was on two weeks notice.”
“I got a little tired eighteen minutes into the fight and took a little break. He didn’t. It was fun because I had no pressure on me, and I got out of all those submissions.”
Should Henderson get past Babalu this Saturday, he will once again set his sights on a bigger opponent. He has an eye on a fight with one of the best fighters in the history of the sport—Fedor Emelianenko.
“Yeah, it’s definitely something that could happen,” Henderson said. “I need to win at least my next two fights before that could happen, but it is a possibility. I think it would be a fun one for me.”
In the meantime, Henderson has to take on Sobral and if he is victorious, newly crowned Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, Rafael “Fejao” Calvacante. Calvacante defeated Lawal on Aug. 10 to win the Strikeforce crown.
Now that Calvacante is the light heavyweight champion. Sobral no longer has to worry about fighting a teammate. On the other hand, Henderson would not have backed off from the challenge.
Henderson often trains with another highly regarded middleweight, Matt Lindland.
"I’ve never had that happen,” Henderson said about fighting Lindland, “but it could be a possibility. By the time I got to the UFC, Matt Lindland wasn’t there anymore so it didn’t matter.”
Now, Henderson and Lindland are both in Strikeforce, but the two combatants are in different weight classes. Henderson is remaining focused on the task ahead.
“He’s tough,” Henderson said about Sobral. “He’s been around a long time. He’s well rounded.”
Sobral has been around so long that he and Henderson actually met up once before. The two fought over ten years ago in Japan. Henderson won by majority decision.
“It was a different sport back then,” Henderson said. “I was just a wrestler, and he just a jiu-jitsu guy. I don’t take anything away from it. I don’t even have a videotape of it.”
Even though many years have passed between the two bouts, Henderson plans on a similar result.
“I’m looking forward to fighting Babalu again and making it much more of a beating than last time,” Henderson said. “I’m going to beat his *ss.”
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