Dan Henderson – A Sincere Thanks
Maybe it’s my roots in pro wrestling, but I wish the UFC would allow its legends to walk to the cage, grab a mic, and address the fans when they walk away from the sport. Give Dan Henderson more than a few minutes to express himself. Let him have a clear mind, a body free from exhaustion and a spotlight deserving of the significance of the announcement. Let the fans stand, chant in unison, “Thank you Dan.”
Dan Henderson is an MMA icon, it’s not even up for debate. Whether you feel he won, or lost at UFC 204, you don’t doubt his spot in the history in sport. He’s on Mt. Rushmore, undoubtedly. He achieved amazing success at every level, and in every organization he’s competed in. More so, he’s earned fans in droves that will forever admire his understated sense of self, and the H-Bomb that scrambled brains and left fans dizzy with excitement.
Dan was an elite high school wrestler, a college National Championship qualifier, a two-time Olympic wrestler and is a multi-time world champion. As a mixed martial artist, he’s been at the top since he debuted. He’s won multiple world titles, in multiple weight classes, including holding the Pride Welterweight and Middleweight Titles at the same time. He has beaten literally a who’s who of MMA. Don’t believe me? I’ll run the names. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Babalu Sobral, Renzo Gracie, Shogun Rua, Murilo Bustamante, Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Rich Franklin, Michael Bisping, Hector Lombard and Fedor Emelianenko. Let that sink in.
Respected doesn’t begin to cover it. Fans and fighters alike love Dan Henderson. He’s basically the most respected man in the sport. Here’s what a few of his peers had to say as they took to Twitter to pay their respects. There are many, many more.
Aside from being perhaps America’s best ever professional MMA fighter, Dan might just be America’s best man as well. Nobody in the sport represents the USA like Dan does. He just leaks “Merica from every pore. As you settle in to watch another political debate tonight, think how much better a Henderson/Stann presidential ticket might look. Of the two, I don’t care who is President and who is Vice President, they’ve got my vote. I don’t even care about their policies, they can run on integrity and patriotism.
Even as I write this, I have to be honest, I’m not the biggest Dan Henderson fan in the world. I’m still a little bitter that I made the trip to Vegas in 2007 to watch my favorite Wanderlei Silva fight in person. It was Pride 33, and Dan Henderson did what he often does, landed the H Bomb and sent his opponent into a world of gum drop dreams and candy cane memories, planting Silva with a highlight reel KO, and taking his Middleweight title in the process. Fair play for Hendo, I mean, you play with the bull, you get the horns. However, after the fight he made a comment that Silva’s post fight party was in the emergency room, and it bugged me. For going on nine years it has bugged me. I guess it’s time to let it go. I too embrace Dan Henderson as the best of the best. The GOAT if you will.
Fast forward to Manchester, England last night. It was roughly 5AM local time as the main event was set to kick off, and the fans were hot. They were their to cheer for their hometown hero, Middleweight Champion Micheal Bisping. I have to admit, I was nervous, I didn’t know what I was to witness, I just knew I had to see it play out. It was time for Dan Henderson’s last fight.
As I watched him make that long walk, to Toby Keith’s “Made in America” it seemed logical that Dan would land the shot and walk away from the sport as the UFC Champion, the only belt that has alluded him. It made poetic sense, it should have happened, and it damn near did.
As the first round neared conclusion, Bisping, who had looked sharp, was a little tardy in getting his left hand back after throwing it at Henderson, big mistake. Shuffle, shuffle, Right Hand, BANG….Henderson landed and sent Bisping falling to the canvas. Hendo jumped into action, landing punches and elbows that lumped and opened up Bisping’s face. It was close, it was really close, but Bisping escaped the first round, albeit in shaky fashion.
Dan Henderson’s shuffle, shuffle, right hand shouldn’t be effective. You know it’s coming. It’s coming….I mean, it’s what he does. You should be able to prepare for it, defend against it, but you can’t. Nobody can. The Shuffle, shuffle, H Bomb is like the bass-line of that song you hear in the club on Saturday night, and can’t keep from hearing in your head over and over Monday morning. You don’t know where you heard it, but it now lives in your head, and you’re powerless against it.
In the end, Michael Bisping was awarded the judge’s decision. Some fans agreed, some didn’t, but life goes on, and Dan Henderson is in no way tarnished by the experience. If anything, his legend grows. He made the walk, forty-seven times in his career. He won way more than he lost, he held belts all over the world, and he won the hearts of fans everywhere as well. How can you not love Dan Henderson? I tried, and I’ve failed. I look up to him as a fighter, and as a human being. He’s a 46-year-old man, who is tougher than you are, and he walks into the sunset with a clear mind, and a full life.
Success for Dan Henderson isn’t measured with a golden belt, it’s measured in a golden life. My hat is off to him, and the sport will be less than it was when he competed. Hero, Legend, Icon….Thank You Dan Henderson.
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