For all the marvels, one thing that UFC President Dana White has never been particularly good at is speaking for Dan Henderson. This was the case before Henderson bolted for Strikeforce, and it’s still the case right now.
And for as telegraphic as Henderson has been in his latest title quest -- in any division he can physically make from middleweight on up -- he apparently turns into a sphinx when it comes to everything besides. White says Hendo’s waiting for Jon Jones/Rashad Evans; Henderson says that isn't true, that he wants to stay busy. White says Hendo turned down a fight with Lyoto Machida; Henderson says that’s the buffet talking -- that fight was never on the table.
One of these guys needs to get a landline, because the phone calls keep breaking up.
So what’s the truth? Probably that neither party has any good ideas on what to do. Henderson is hovering as contender No. 1B in two divisions, with willingness to explore a third (heavyweight). Yet out of all those divisions, the UFC can’t find him an opponent. It’s problematic for a 41-year-old to hit these kind of wait-and-see impasses.
The sticking point is that Henderson wants a guy of similar projection, somebody with a couple of wins in a row and title momentum. Those are scarce right now in the divisions Henderson dabbles in. If Henderson could make welterweight, he’d find the kind of guys he’s talking about. People like Carlos Condit, who has an interim belt he doesn’t know what to do with. Or Jake Ellenberger, who fits that bill, too. To fight those types, Henderson would have to fast like a yogi for as long as it would take to wait out Jones/Evans in April. In other words, fat chance.
At light heavyweight (his obvious preference), there’s Machida, who’s lost three of his last four bouts. But Machida’s in his own purgatory -- and even then he’s become a pretty attractive “why not” proposition for people in better positions to consider. Henderson apparently is. And there’s also the winner of Ryan Bader/Quinton Jackson, which happens on Feb. 26 in Japan at UFC 144. If the UFC could book a quick turnaround fight with the winner there and jibe up the schedules to the Jones/Evans bout, Henderson would do it.
Again, though, that’s all a dice throw.
Yet aside from a Mauricio Rua rematch, that’s about all there is -- and a Rua rematch would feel too much like déjà vu. How haunting would it be to sign on for that fight just in time for Evans to go down with an injury, just like last time? Never mind the memorable fight they put on, had Henderson waited a week before signing on for Rua at UFC 139, he’d already have fought Jon Jones at UFC 140 in Toronto. That stays in Henderson’s mind as much as the experience with Rua.
So who else is there? Henderson has made it clear he doesn’t want to go back down to middleweight unless it’s for a rematch with Anderson Silva -- which leaves heavyweight, a division that Henderson would never balk at fighting in so long as it could be perceived as fan friendly. Unfortunately, not a lot of fights make sense there, either (read: virtually none).
Pat Barry has Lavar Johnson in his sights, and Cheick Kongo is fighting Mark Hunt in Japan. Stefan Struve? Doesn’t seem a big enough name for Henderson. All the elite names (Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, Frank Mir, Cain Velasquez) have fights already. And besides, as Henderson said, “none of those guys wants to fight me, anyway.” Daniel Cormier stares at his phone most days saying, “why won’t you ring, why won’t you ring?” Shane Carwin is still a mile down the calendar from coming back. The only name that could be intriguing at all would be Fabricio Werdum, a smaller heavyweight who shares a distinction with Henderson of having defeated Fedor Emelianenko.
It would be a cameo, but in a world of very few alternatives, it might be enough to pique Henderson’s interest.
Otherwise, the options for a marquee fight are very limited for Henderson right now, and matchmaker Joe Silva and Dana White are throwing up their hands with what to do. So is Henderson. Will he wait? Will he fight? Seems like a good time to meet up, put some headshots on the wall, and throw some darts.
Or, at very least, for the UFC and Dan Henderson to have a talk.