When the UFC 151 media call happened Tuesday morning, UFC President Dana White declared Dan Henderson (29-8, MMA) a future Hall of Famer, current UFC Light Heavyweight Champ Jon Jones (16-1, MMA) admitted he’s not looking past Henderson, and Dan Henderson expressed his desire to add a UFC title to his list of accomplishments.
When the call got underway Heidi Fang of MMA Fight Corner asked Dana if he thought Jones done enough to cement his status as a phenomenon at 205. Dana responded, “I mean he’s been on a tear, he’s beat the who’s who in the sport for the last year and a half. And yes, if he went out there and wrecked Dan Henderson, that would be even more impressive than he has been in the last year and a half. Nobody’s ever knocked out Dan Henderson. That’s what I forgot to add to his list of accolades, he’s got a rock solid, iron chin that he has. You don’t knock out Dan Henderson, if he did that, it would be quite feat.”
On the flip side, White explained to MMA Fight Corner what this fight means to Henderson’s legacy. “Whether Dan Henderson wins or loses, he’s a Hall of Famer,” he stated.
When UFC 151 goes down on September 1st in Las Vegas, NV at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, two fighters with outstanding track records will go to war. Former two-time PRIDE and Strikeforce title holder, Henderson has never been knocked out in his storied career and Jones has never been taken down in the UFC.
Henderson said taking down Jones is something he hopes to do early on in the fight. “I definitely plan on beating him to the punch and putting him on his back during the fight. I’m excited, but everyone’s gonna have to wait to see how it unfolds,” Henderson said.
As for Jones, despite what critics have said, he believes his chin has been put to the test in other fights and Henderson’s overhand right, known as the H-Bomb, won’t be any more difficult to handle. “I feel as if my chin has been tested. I don’t have pride in getting my chin tested. I think getting your chin tested slows down your career. It makes it so you can’t take punches. The more you get punched, the faster you’ll expect to go down. I train with Travis Browne and Andrei Arlovski, tons of great strikers, tons of heavy handed fighters. So, I’ve been punched. Rashad Evans hit me pretty good, Lyoto Machida hit me pretty good. So, I’d say it’s definitely been tested. That conversation should be over by now.”
White also spoke up on Henderson’s ability to pull off the upset and discussed what this fight could do for Pay Per View numbers. ”If anybody thinks Dan Henderson can’t win this fight their out of their mind. I heard that Dan Henderson’s a 7 to 1 underdog,” White said. ”I think that fans who know the sport know Dan Henderson is a true threat to Jon and that’s what makes it interesting and why people will buy it.”
Dana added that Hendo has faced the “who’s who” in his career and is probably one of the more overlooked and underrated fighters in the sport. The UFC President was baffled why people have been so quick to write Henderson off against Jones. “I do think that’s crazy. He’s been around forever and he’s fought everybody at every weight class. And he’s one of those guys who’ll step up and take a fight…If you look at his skill set, he’s got an iron chin, he’s a great wrestler, and he’s got knockout power in both hands. I just don’t know how you discount this guy. The amount of disrespect by the media and fans for Dan Henderson is ridiculous,” White said.
The hype surrounding Jones was built around the fact that he’s managed to dismantle those he’s faced and find and exploit their weaknesses. Jones said that he’s reviewed each one of Henderson’s fights and understands that he’s fighting a legend of the sport. For Jones, a win against Henderson would be one of his biggest achievements to date. “With Dan Henderson it’s high risk and high reward, definitely. Dan Henderson is someone who has a PRIDE belt and a Strikeforce belt. I feel like I’m fighting the current PRIDE champion and the current Strikeforce champion in some ways. He left both organizations on top if I’m correct,” Jones stated. “Beating Dan Henderson is very, very important to me. He beat Fedor. Fedor’s one of my idols. To have Dan Henderson in my win column, it means the world to me.”
Though the hype surrounding this fight may not compare to trash talk that’s transpired between Jones and his previous opponents, like Rashad Evans, it’s not to say this fight hasn’t had it’s share of other distractions. This week, Jones made comments about not wanting a rematch with Lyoto Machida and engaged in a back and forth war of words on Twitter with Chael Sonnen. Jones admitted his fault and said he’s done looking past Henderson. ”I’ve talked past Henderson a little bit too much this training camp and I kind of regret it. Dan Henderson is a monster, he’s a lion. And I don’t want to talk past him anymore. We’re both coming up on judgement day here and it’s time for me to just focus in on Dan in every way, shape, and form, I’m done talking past him.”
Despite Hendo’s impressive resume and ability to withstand wars, Jones hopes to be the first man to knock him out. “I don’t believe anyone is invincible. When you’ve fought for such a long time, and when you’ve taken so many big shots, your ability to take big shots kind of fades away,” Jones said. ”People get him hurt and then they seem like they gas out, like they can’t finish the deal. And one thing I know I won’t do is gas out. So I really believe that I’ll hit him in that spot that makes him fall and I’ll finish the job. And that’s something no one else has been able to do, and something I have great pride in doing.”
For Henderson his strength in MMA, besides the H-Bomb, has been his wrestling. But he added that he’s not solely relying on his wrestling to win. ”You go out trying to knock people down, you’ll get taken down if you’re not careful. It’s not a wrestling match, I don’t have any type of competition going with anyone in MMA for my wrestling. It’s a fight out there, the MMA part of it is going to decide who’s the best fighter out there.”
Part of Henderson’s game plan will be staying out of Jones’ 84.5 inch reach. “I need to at least hit him. I need to get in there and control him, it’s like what he needs to do to me. I don’t want to stand on the outside an let him use his length and just kind of hit me when I’m too far away to hit him,” Henderson said. “It won’t be too fun of a fight for me if I’m standing there and he’s just hitting me and I can’t hit him. That’s probably the biggest thing I need to handle is just that length.” Henderson also added he’s seen holes in Jones’ game that he plans to use to his advantage. “At times, I think he is a little sloppy sometimes with his striking and that would give certain opportunities for me to land some strikes.”
As the youngest champion in UFC history, Jones said that while he holds the belt, he doesn’t intend to sit around and not defend his title. His goal is to put it on the line at least 3 or 4 times a year and shoot for Tito Ortiz’s record of title defenses at light heavyweight. This test against Henderson will by no means be an easy one for Jones, but Jones feels that Henderson has one advantage that he doesn’t – that being his TRT use.
While Jones felt the topic was controversial and was hestitant to speak on it, he said of Henderson’s TRT use: “If you’re healthy enough to play the sport, you shouldn’t take any performance enhancement drugs or anything, or testosterone. Fighters make a lot of money in their 20′s, they make a lot of money in their 30′s and when they get in their 40′s, unfortunately you’re in their 40′s, you should fight the way you fight when you’re in your 40′s…I don’t think you should take a drug to give you the strength of a 30-year-old again.”
Henderson didn’t get the opportunity to defend himself about his TRT use, but come Saturday, September 1st, he can make his statement in the Octagon when he faces Jones.