Dan Henderson almost went out in a blaze of championship glory.
The 46-year-old’s fabled right hand once again found its mark — twice — against Michael Bisping in their rematch at UFC 204. Only this time, “The Count” lived to tell the tale and ultimately prevailed over five tense rounds in Manchester to retain his middleweight title. Henderson famously knocked out Bisping with a brutal H-bomb and follow-up ground strike in their first meeting at UFC 100 more than seven years ago.
“The first round…it was almost finished. Real close,” Henderson said. “I thought that was obviously a 10-8 round. But you never know. I thought I won the first two rounds. He won the third and fourth. I wanted to make sure I won the fifth…Honestly I didn’t feel hurt once in the whole fight with the exception of one leg kick that hurt my thigh a little.
“Obviously by looking at him, he felt some of the shots I hit him with. I’m real frustrated but I have to go home and look at it [again].”
Bisping’s face was swollen and bloodied by the end of the contest, but he managed to land with enough volume and consistency to get the nod from the cageside judges. Henderson, meanwhile, confirmed that he plans on calling it a career despite the disappointing nature of his swan song.
“Unfortunately that was the last one,” he said. “It will have to be an ‘L’ on my record. I left it all in there and I felt like I did enough to win. Unfortunately everybody didn’t see it that way.”
Henderson exits the sport with a long list of accomplishments, including titles in two divisions in Pride Fighting Championships and another belt in Strikeforce. His resume includes notable triumphs against the likes of Mauricio Rua, Fedor Emelianenko, Bisping, Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, Renato Sobral, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Rich Franklin, to name a few. Still, the last one is going to sting for a little while.
“Before this fight I felt like I accomplished enough in this sport and was satisfied with that,” he said. “Obviously there was one more thing I wanted to do….I’m a little frustrated feeling like i did get it done and didn’t get credit for it, I guess. It is what is its and there’s no changing it. I’ve just got to live with it.”
After the bout, Henderson said he spoke briefly with UFC President Dana White in the Octagon.
“I think we were talking about the scoring, and he was surprised it wasn’t a 10-8 round, which would have made it a draw at the very least,” Henderson said. “He just expressed to me that it was an awesome fight.
“I told Dana I’d be calling him for a job pretty quick, but we’ll see what happens.”
While Henderson may be taking a different type of position within the Las Vegas-based promotion in the near future, he has relished the opportunity to see the sport he loves grow to where it is today.
“I think this sport when I first started in it obviously wasn’t thought of as a sport by most people. It has really evolved into what it is now,” he said. “It’s probably the toughest sport out there to do. There’s no other sport that other professional athletes respect more than MMA fighters. It’s evolved into that. It’s something that’s a blessing for me to witness as a competitor for the last 19 to 20 years, to come from almost nothing to where it is now.
“I can’t wait to see where it goes in the next 10 years.”