Dan Henderson believes he still has another UFC title run left in him
At FOX UFC Fight Night this weekend in Sweden, Dan Henderson returns to middleweight for the first time since 2010, but his plan to drop back down to 185-pounds actually happened about a year ago.
Henderson defeated Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua last March in one of the best comebacks of the entire year, but following the victory he contemplated a move back down to middleweight where he was a title contender in his previous run with the UFC.
The UFC had other ideas.
"I think it was after I fought ‘Shogun’, I wanted to maybe move down to middleweight," Henderson told FOX Sports. "It felt like it was probably going to be a while to get a title shot at 205 and middleweight might be a little quicker at that time. I told that to Dana (White) and he wanted me to fight D.C. (Daniel Cormier) anyways. I said alright and now I’m down at middleweight."
I wouldn’t be still doing it if I didn’t think it was possible
— Dan Henderson on making a title run at 44
The fight against Cormier was basically an unmitigated disaster for Henderson as he got tossed and trampled before getting choked out in the third round. His loss ended up as highlight reel material for Cormier as he got ready for his showdown with Jon Jones at UFC 182, but even now Henderson refuses to look back at the decision to take the fight as a mistake.
"I don’t have regrets about that. I was just really light because I had back-to-back training camps and weighed in for D.C. at 199. I didn’t have a chance to get bigger. It was just one of those things," Henderson said.
While Henderson knows he came in extra-light for his last matchup at 205-pounds, he’s also aware of the questions that will undoubtedly come up this week as he makes his cut down to middleweight.
The last time Henderson fought at middleweight was in Strikeforce for a fight against then champion Jake Shields. The day before the fight, Henderson stepped on the scale and looked completely depleted after a brutal weight cut to get down to 185-pounds.
Following the loss to Shields, Henderson moved back up to light heavyweight and even took a heavyweight fight against Fedor Emelianenko, but it seemed his days as a middleweight were long gone.
"Last time there were some other circumstances that made my weight pop up the last week. It made the weight cut a lot tougher. My weight popped up the last week dealing with some medication. This time is a little different," Henderson explained. "Obviously, I’m not having to take medication that’s going to mess with my weight cut at all and I feel like I’m right on track. I’ve been eating really lean. I’m down to about 200-pounds walking around before workouts so I’m right where I want to be."
For his first trip back to middleweight in nearly five years, Henderson will face former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi in the co-main event in the UFC’s return to Sweden.
On paper, both men are staving off irrelevancy after a rough run in the UFC of late. Henderson has gone just 2-4 since coming back to the promotion (with both wins coming over ‘Shogun’ Rua) while Mousasi has managed a paltry 2-2 record including a three-round drubbing courtesy of Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza in his last fight.
Henderson has a much different narrative when looking at this matchup with Mousasi. This isn’t a possible swan song to an iconic career. This is his chance to beat a top 10-ranked middleweight and start his climb back up to another crack at a UFC title.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking considering Henderson is 44-years old and clearly has less years in front of him than behind, but don’t try to tell him he can’t make another run at the gold.
If that’s not the goal, Henderson wouldn’t even bother doing this anymore.
"I wouldn’t be still doing it if I didn’t think it was possible," Henderson said about winning a UFC title. "It’s something you just have to wait and see how I feel at middleweight, but in practice I feel great. My body’s doing what I need it to do. I feel I’m improving every practice. Cardio’s where it needs to be as well so I’m feeling good."