Why Hendo Chose Strikeforce
Former UFC middleweight Dan Henderson spoke with Sherdog.com just minutes after the announcement that heíd jumped promotions and signed a four-fight, 16-month deal with rival organization Strikeforce. Henderson, who had co-headlined four of his last five appearances in the UFC, negotiated with both promotions until last Friday.
Sherdog.com: Why did you pick Strikeforce over the UFC?
Henderson: The decision was based on a number of things. It wasnít just a financial thing. It was the fact that I felt I wasnít getting the fight that I wanted in the UFC. That was a big part of that -- that I wasnít and that it got yanked away from me. I think I stepped up for the UFC a number of times and had earned that right again for a title fight. And the fact that publicity-wise, CBS offers quite a bit more than a pay-per-view and Spike TV.
Sherdog.com: In September, you sat down with UFC owners Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White in Las Vegas and confronted them about being passed over for the next middleweight title bout against Silva. How did they respond?
Henderson: The fight got pulled from me and was offered to Vitor (Belfort). I met with them after Vitor fought Rich Franklin. I told them that it does irritate me. I said, ĎWhy does Vitor get to jump the line when thereís me and (Nate) Marquardt here who can both fight for a title shot and Vitorís never fought for the UFC at 185? He jumps the line, especially since I beat him.í They acted surprised that Iíd even fought him. They werenít up on those details at the time. It jogged their memory, but either way, to put someone in there that I dominated not that long agoÖ
Sherdog.com: Youíre the first top-ranked UFC fighter to leave that promotion and join Strikeforceís ranks. What do you think this says about the current climate of the sport?
Henderson: Obviously, I was fighting in Pride for a long time and Iíve never been one to really jump ship. Had I felt a little bit more, I donít knowÖ I was planning on finishing my career in the UFC. When I signed with the UFC, thatís what I was planning on doing. I think that whatever transpired or how they handled me just didnít work out at present. Especially for me at this point in my career, it was definitely Strikeforce. I donít know what that says about the climate of the UFC. I think that they need to really respect the fighters a little bit more.
Sherdog.com: At one point during renegotiations Dana White stated that you were trying to become the highest paid fighter in the UFC --
Henderson: I donít know what anyone else makes, but didnít he make a comment after that a couple of weeks later that I was upset about what Tito (Ortiz) makes? I have no idea what Tito makes. So, if Iím trying to be the highest paid fighter, why would I be upset about what Tito makes? These are his own comments contradicting themselves. Either way, I donít know what Tito makes and I didnít really know where I was on the totem pole over there, but I felt like I wasnít getting fair market value for myself.
Sherdog.com: How did the UFCís banning of your clothing brand, Clinch Gear, from their events affect renegotiations?
Henderson: Well, at least Iíll be able to have Clinch Gear on in the cage when I fight for Strikeforce. The banning didnít really affect anything though. When the UFC called and said that we could no longer sponsor (other fighters), that we were banned from the UFC, I wasnít mad at all. It was more funny to me than anything that they would do that. Dana has stated to me that it was nothing personal and that there were no hard feelings at all. If there were no hard feelings, why would they ban a clothing line? We already had a deal; we were paying for the right to sponsor guys just like every other sponsor was. For them to come back and say just because Dan hasnít re-signed a deal yet, weíre banned.
Sherdog.com: Does that play into your comment earlier that they need to respect fighters more?
Henderson: Absolutely. Things like that arenít necessary and for them to do that in the middle of negotiations doesnít make me feel respected. Itís more of a strong-arm tactic and a lot of people turn the other way when that happens. To me, it was just funny. I didnít take it personally, but it just seemed a little contradictory to the Ďno hard feelingsí thing.
Sherdog.com: How did the Strikeforce negotiations play out in comparison to the UFC renegotiations? You were talking to both promotions at the same time.
Yeah, I was to a point. I wasnít going back and forth to them saying, ĎHey, so and so is paying me this. Pay me more.í I didnít want to do that at all. I donít think thatís the right way to do things, so basically I was just looking at the offers. I have to be honest, Strikeforce was a little slow in getting back to me on certain things, only because Scott Coker got sick for a couple of weeks and was a little hard to get a hold of. He didnít want to pass the negotiations over to anyone else. Other than that, everything went great and Scott Coker was very respectful and excited the whole time. I was sincere with negotiating with them obviously because I signed, but I wasnít just using them to get the UFC to pay me more. Dana was pretty cool throughout negotiations with the UFC. He was OK to deal with. We were pretty much just at a standstill. I thought I was worth more and they didnít. It was nothing personal really.
Sherdog.com: The critics of this move might say youíre leaving the elite of the sport to go fight lesser competition. How would you respond to that?
Henderson: Itís questionable. Where is (Gegard) Mousasi ranked in there? He might be the guy to beat Anderson Silva up. And obviously Fedor (Emelianenko) is unscathed and has proven that he is probably the top heavyweight in the world. Jake Shields has never fought in the UFC. I think that Strikeforce has a lot of great matchups for me. Iím in this sport not just for the money, but I love the challenge of it. Those three guys are great challenges for me and Strikeforce has quite a few guys that are really top at 185 and above. Their roster is growing rapidly with top guys, not just lower-level guys.
Sherdog.com: Why do you think every fighter wants to fight Fedor Emelianenko?
Henderson: I donít know. To me, heís not the reason I signed with Strikeforce just to fight him -- although that is interesting and appealing to me to be able to challenge myself against him. I donít know who else wants to fight him, but I do know the fans like to see him fight. Heís very effective and likes to finish guys and does a very good job. I think him and I would make an interesting matchup.
Sherdog.com: Do you think you can beat Emelianenko?
Henderson: I think I can beat anyone on any given day. Itís just a matter of making sure that everything is right with that day.
Sherdog.com: How do you look back on your UFC career?
Henderson: I always enjoyed watching the UFC and had good experiences fighting there, so I have nothing bad to say about them. I just think that for me, at this point in my career, maybe it just wasnít a good matchup for them and me. We were at a sticking point on certain things and maybe they think I donít have too many years left, so why would they put a lot of stock in me. Who knows?
Sherdog.com: What are your goals now, having signed on for four fights with Strikeforce?
Henderson: Iím planning on fighting more than four fights. I can tell you that. I couldnít tell you what the future holds. It changes pretty quickly. Like I said, I thought I was going to end my career in the UFC and this came up and obviously I went in a different direction than I thought I was going to. I couldnít comment on the future and who knows whatís going to happen with Strikeforce? I think that they have great opportunities and have the potential to bring a lot of new fans to the sport and Iím pretty much at the forefront of that. Thatís appealing to me.