Long Time Coming - Hendo Returns to The UFC
07/16/2007

By Thomas Gerbasi

Talk about no rest for the weary. Just moments after his stunning victory over Chuck Liddell at UFC 71, it was announced at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas that newly crowned UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton Jackson would face two-division PRIDE Champion Dan Henderson in his first title defense later this year, marking Hendo's return to the Octagon for the first time since 1998 in what promises to be one of the biggest mixed martial arts fights in years.

Dan Henderson
By Thomas Gerbasi

Talk about no rest for the weary. Just moments after his stunning victory over Chuck Liddell at UFC 71, it was announced at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas that newly crowned UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton Jackson would face two-division PRIDE Champion Dan Henderson in his first title defense later this year, marking Hendo's return to the Octagon for the first time since 1998 in what promises to be one of the biggest mixed martial arts fights in years.

"Quinton's my friend, Chuck's my friend, we're all friends," said Henderson. "But it's a sport and a business and I'd be happy to make some money with some friends."

And if anything's been proven by Henderson over the course of his ten year career in mixed martial arts, it's that he's a money player when the fight is on the line.

A native of Temecula, California, the 36-year old Henderson (22-5) turned to mixed martial arts in 1997 after a stellar Greco-Roman wrestling career that saw him represent the United States in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

Henderson made his pro debut with two fights in one night on June 15, 1997, stopping Crezio de Souza in the first round and Eric Smith in just 30 seconds. From there, the Henderson train just kept on rolling.

On May 15, 1998, he would make his Octagon debut, scoring back to back victories over Carlos Newton and Allen Goes on the same night at UFC 17, but for the next nine years, he would take his solid wrestling attack and devastating right hand overseas to compete, most notably in the PRIDE organization.

His PRIDE debut in 2000 was disappointing, as he lost a hard fought decision to Wanderlei Silva, but that defeat was quickly erased by wins over Renzo Gracie, Murilo Ninja' Rua, Murilo Bustamante (twice), Yuki Kondo, Vitor Belfort, and Kazuhiro Nakamura.

By early 2007, the Team Quest standout had established himself as one of the best fighters, pound for pound, in the world and took home the PRIDE welterweight championship (roughly equivalent to the UFC's middleweight division in weight) for his efforts. He wasn't satisfied though, and in February, he moved up to the middleweight class (equivalent to the UFC's light heavyweight division) to face old rival Silva.

In that fight, Henderson was on top of his game, knocking out Silva in the third round to add the PRIDE middleweight title to his welterweight crown, the only fighter in history to own both titles simultaneously.

The win made him the obvious candidate for an MMA Superfight with Jackson at UFC 75 on September 8th, and for United States fans, the nine year wait is over, because Hendo is back.

"I'm happy for the fighters and the fans that we finally get to see who the top guy is," said Henderson.