Henderson Reaches Agreement with Strikeforce

By Loretta Hunt Dec 7, 2009
Former UFC middleweight Dan Henderson signed a four-fight, 16-month deal with Strikeforce on Saturday.

Aaron Crecy, the fighter’s business partner and manager, confirmed that the deal has been inked but would not divulge any further specifics of the agreement. Henderson had been in negotiations with both the UFC and Strikeforce since his UFC contract expired this fall.

“Dan chose to sign with Strikeforce after careful consideration," Crecy told Sherdog.com via e-mail on Monday. "He approached the process with an open mind, and over the course of the past couple months became increasingly impressed with the Strikeforce organization. It was not a decision that Dan took lightly."

Henderson could debut for Strikeforce as early as April on a tentatively planned CBS event, Sherdog.com has learned, and might face the promotion’s middleweight champion, Jake Shields, right out of the gate. Henderson, who also fights at light heavyweight, is being eyed for matchups against Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi and the world’s No. 1 heavyweight, Fedor Emelianenko, said a source with knowledge of the deal.

“Dan has always been motivated by the challenge of competing above his natural weight class, and he would certainly be honored to square off with Fedor at some point," said Crecy.

Henderson, who is Sherdog.com’s No. 3 ranked middleweight, and the UFC had stalemated on a new five-fight agreement since late July, following the two-time Olympic wrestler’s second-round knockout of Michael Bisping at UFC 100. (Henderson earned $350,000 for the win, which included a $100,000 performance bonus from the promotion.)

Henderson was first announced to rematch Rich Franklin at UFC 103 last September in Dallas, though he was later replaced by Vitor Belfort as the 39-year-old California native’s renegotiations continued.

During a July 31 teleconference call, UFC President Dana White said Henderson was “next in line” to challenge middleweight titleholder Anderson Silva in a rematch of their March 2008 bout at UFC 82. However, the bout would never come to fruition. Henderson met face-to-face with UFC owners Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta at the end of September in Las Vegas, but could not hash out a new contract.

In November, Strikeforce joined the negotiation table after Henderson’s two-month non-compete period had expired with the UFC. Unlike other standard UFC contracts, Henderson’s did not include a matching period in which the UFC could review and match outside offers, said the source.

Jordan Feagan, Henderson’s lawyer, continued to converse with both promotions as late as Friday, according to the source. The source said that Henderson was even offered a bout on Friday to face top-ranked middleweight Nate Marquardt at UFC 109 on Feb. 6 in Las Vegas, a matchup the promotion had previously tried to lock up for November’s UFC 105 in Manchester, England. A bout between Marquardt and Henderson’s former teammate, Chael Sonnen, had already been reported independently for that date, though not officially announced yet by the promotion.

Henderson won the UFC’s under 200-Pound tournament at UFC 17 in 1998, before joining the ranks of RINGS and Pride Fighting Championships in Japan. The only fighter ever to hold two division titles for Pride simultaneously, Henderson owns victories over standouts Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Wanderlei Silva, Murilo Bustamante, and Rich Franklin.

During his second stint with the UFC from 2007-2009, Henderson co-headlined four of the five events that he appeared in.

Crecy said Henderson was “very pleased” with the terms of his new contract and that money was not the fighter’s sole objective in his decision to move to the newer promotion.

“Dan likes to be a maverick, and I think part of the attraction to Strikeforce was to be a part of something that broadens the growth of the sport within the U.S. and globally,” said Crecy. “The fact that Strikeforce offers a network television platform in CBS as well as a premium cable partner in Showtime was particularly appealing to him. It delivers an incredible opportunity for Dan to perform live before an audience of millions of present and future MMA fans. Also, (Strikeforce CEO) Scott Coker treated Dan with a great deal of respect and integrity throughout the negotiations, and that certainly affected his decision. Dan is very excited to be a part of the Strikeforce family."
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