As a free agent, a return to the UFC seems likely for Dan Henderson. Henderson would return with more fame, more storylines, and more box office appeal than he had during his last run with Zuffa. The UFC needs to sign Dan Henderson today and reap the rewards tomorrow!
It only took 4:13 Saturday night for the MMA community to begin opining about a return to the UFC for Dan Henderson. Henderson made it known (smartly so) in the weeks leading up to the fight with Fedor Emelianenko that this would be the last fight on his four-fight Strikeforce deal. That is why it shouldn’t surprise anyone that nobody is talking about Henderson’s future opponents in Strikeforce today, they are talking the UFC!
Of course from the UFC side, it was money. Dana White told the media when Henderson signed with Strikeforce that he pushed him into it. “For the money he wanted, he’s not worth it,” he said. “He’s not a big pay-per-view star, he’s not a big attraction, and he’s not going to sell out arenas. He wants way too much and he doesn’t bring anything to the table.”
Does he bring anything to the table now?
What is different about this negotiation as opposed to the last? Henderson will likely be asking for big money, yet he is also now in his forties. He had a three-fight winning streak then, he has one now. However, I think the landscape is much different and it favors Henderson. The UFC is running thin on headliners and have been bit badly this year by the injury bug. Henderson is in a position to offer the UFC an immediate headliner in two, maybe even three divisions. That right there makes him a hot commodity.
Henderson has never been more popular. He is coming off a win over an MMA legend, overcoming odds as an underdog to win the fight. He is coming off three straight wins by either knock out or TKO. His personality, fight style, and story have made him an extremely popular fighter in the world of MMA. It wasn’t as if he didn’t have similar momentum after knocking out Michael Bisping at UFC 100. But knocking out Bisping and knockout out Fedor are two different stories entirely.
The UFC could bring him in and immediately plug him into title matches against the UFC light heavyweight or middleweight champions. The Anderson Silva fight is more appealing from a storyline perspective, yet the Jon Jones fight would make the most sense. Either way the UFC can play up Henderson’s win over Fedor and proclaim him a “legend killer.” The Legend Killer vs. the Legend for the middleweight title, along with the underlying story of the scrapped Henderson vs. Silva rematch would make a great story in building up that fight.
On the other side, you have the Legend Killer vs. the Prodigy? I am not calling Jon Jones a legend, but the idea of seeing what he could do against the man that just knocked out Fedor is a heck of a story. Ironically, Henderson would walk back in holding the promotion’s light heavyweight championship that the UFC purchased.
Remember, Henderson returned to the UFC as Pride light heavyweight champion and fought Rampage Jackson in a battle of champions. It is actually quite remarkable if you think about the similarities in a proposed Jones fight compared to the last time he returned. Imagine how fun it would be to wind up with a Rampage vs. Hendo rematch under these circumstances four years later?
I think the UFC has a cash bonanza matching Henderson up against either champion. Unfortunately I think the odds are against him against either Silva or Jones, but he’d have an underdog story that would appeal to the mass MMA audience. Bringing him back and signing him to anything but a UFC championship match in his first fight back makes zero sense and is way too risky. Just ask Anthony Pettis how that worked out.
The other nice option with Henderson is that if he does wind up losing in his first UFC fight against either champion, Zuffa could send him back to Strikeforce to defend the light heavyweight championship. It is not the ideal situation, but let’s be honest about Strikeforce. The company is on life support. As it stands today, their welterweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight championships are vacant. If Zuffa really does intend on keeping Strikeforce alive, here is a great way to do it.
It would be premature to blame the UFC if a deal doesn’t get done. Yet I can’t fathom any reason in the world they wouldn’t be interested in bringing back Dan Henderson. With more shows, no television deal, and plenty more injuries on the horizon, bringing back Henderson makes all of the sense in the world.
And if anyone deserves to go out in the UFC after his most recent string of fights, it is Dan Henderson.
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