Fresh off his stint as coach of Team U.S. on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "U.S. vs. U.K." the former PRIDE light heavyweight and middleweight champion, Dan Henderson, was one of two featured guests on MMAmania.com’s exclusive presentation of Pro MMA Radio this week.
Henderson is one of the most decorated fighters in MMA history. The former Olympic wrestler is the only man to concurrently hold two belts from two different weight classes for a major promotion (Pride FC). He is also 1998’s UFC 17 middleweight and PRIDE 2005 welterweight tournament champion.
With the ninth season of TUF already on the books, Henderson is eyeing his upcoming fight against Team U.K.’s coach, Michael Bisping, which takes place at the historic UFC 100 as one of the top three featured bouts. He talked with us about how the compressed time frame dedicated to the taping of the show makes coaching the TUF competitors a bit different from coaching fighters back at Team Quest.
But overall he felt that DaMarques Johnson — the American favorite to claim the TUF welterweight title, but who ultimately fell short at the finale — has exhibited the most promise for establishing a UFC career.
"DaMarques definitely has some skills. In the finale he just was pretty flat. I know that he was sick for the last couple of weeks with bronchitis going into that, and I think you can tell. He just was a little bit flat. And on the flip side of that, (James) Wilks fought a lot better than he had shown in the past. He looked good, and DaMarques didn’t look so good."
Although it was disappointing to Henderson that all his fighters fell short in the U.K. sweep, he would have rather had his fighters perform to the best of their abilities and fall short; but sometimes that doesn’t happen.
He also had a few choice words for welterweight competitor Jason Pierce, who talked his way out of competing on the show by failing to convince UFC president Dana White that he wanted to fight.
"I think he just was a chicken shit … I lost pretty much all respect for him."
But even worse than showing mental weakness before a fight, Pierce pulled a Benedict Arnold by openly sharing with Team U.K. how the Americans were training, including what he knew of their game plans. Then, he lied to Coach Henderson’s face about doing it.
"With these guys who are not totally well-rounded, they’re not the best fighters yet, that little bit of edge or gameplan could make a big difference in the fight. And to have no respect for your team — and in this case your country you’re representing — and to sell out like that, he definitely … didn’t come off making any new fans, that’s for sure."
Host Larry Pepe also questioned Henderson about the infamous "douchebag" comment he made regarding fellow coach Michael Bisping, although he fell short of referring to their relationship as one with "bad blood."
"He’s an all right guy, but he’s not somebody I’d choose to hang out with, really, just because he’s a little too arrogant and full of himself, and he is a bit of a douchebag. The funniest thing is, before that episode aired, everybody was saying, 'hey, will you please beat up Michael Bisping for me, he’s a douchebag,' and I would just chuckle, because I felt the same way. I think a lot of people have the same feeling after watching him on that show."
In fact, Bisping’s douchebaggery, as Henderson sees it, might be an industry consensus, from fans to people inside the industry alike.
"Everybody I talk to basically tells me to beat him up for them. It’s a very common request. Most of the time before my fights, they just say ‘good luck’ and ‘have a nice fight,’ and ‘hope you do well’ — wishing me good luck, not my opponent to lose."
That said, Henderson says he doesn’t dislike the guy … just that he’s a douchebag (he said it four times).
Strategy-wise, Henderson thinks Bisping would be smart not to engage him and foresees the Brit coming in with a similar strategy he used against Chris Leben — one similar to the strategy Rich Franklin used against Hendo: Use body kicks to keep the distance and circle around.
Henderson thinks he’ll be victorious, saying, "I’m going to stay in his face and make him fight me."
While he’s not looking past Bisping, he thinks a win should grant him a title shot -- and a rematch -- against middleweight champion Anderson Silva, although he hasn’t discussed it with the UFC yet. Henderson is the only fighter to steal a round from the reigning UFC middleweight champion since he’s been with the promotion, and a rematch would definitely put butts in seats from a promotional standpoint.
"In my mind if I don’t have a title fight after this fight, I’ll probably want to fight one of the top contenders at 205 … This would be three wins in a row, and I feel like I would be due, and if they don’t give that to me, I’ll go back up to 205."
It was a solid interview that includes Henderson’s criticism of the 10-point must system (he favors Pride FC’s judging system), why he thinks Matt Hamill really beat Bisping, and why Wanderlei Silva would have beat Franklin under Pride FC rules. He also gave his thoughts on UFC 100 and the heavyweight title unification bout between champions Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir.
To check out the complete interview with Henderson, as well as the entire Pro MMA Radio archive with host Larry Pepe, click here.