It didn’t take Dan Henderson long to get back to his old form—poking a little fun at UFC president Dana White Tuesday afternoon during a press conference to announce his return to the UFC with a Nov. 19 bout against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 139 in San Jose, Calif.
“I guess it’s a little bit ironic that every time I win a title somewhere, Dana has to buy the company to get me back,” joked Henderson, who became the Strikeforce light heavyweight champ after leaving the UFC because of a contract disagreement after coldcocking Michael Bisping at UFC 100 in July of 2009.
The 41-year-old Henderson (28-8 MMA record)—a former Olympic wrestler, who won championships in two different weight classes in Pride Fighting Championships, before the promotion (much like Strikeforce) was purchased by the UFC—is making his third showing in the world’s premiere MMA organization.
“The best matchups for me are here in the UFC,” said Henderson, who earned the Strikeforce belt with his TKO of Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante in March and followed that up by knocking out former pound-for-pound king Fedor Emelianenko in a non-title tilt in July.
Much like Henderson, Rua (20-5) was a star in Pride before coming to the UFC, where he earned the 205-pound crown—before current champ Jon Jones defeated him.
“I’m very happy to have a chance to fight Dan Henderson, who is a legend of the sport,” Rua said. “His career speaks for himself, and to be able to keep fighting at a high level for so long speaks volumes about him as a fighter.
“This is a fight that could have happened long ago in PRIDE, and I’m very happy to have a chance to compete against him in such an important time in our careers. Every time Dan Henderson fights, much like me, he comes to fight and is always trying to finish, so I expect a very tough fight that the fans will love!”
Also competing for the first time in the UFC is Cung Le, who will be taking on Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva at the HP Pavilion—the former home of Strikeforce. A loss by the 35-year-old Silva, who has dropped six of his last eight fights, could very well signal the end of his Hall of Fame-worthy career.
California’s favorite fighting son Urijah Faber takes on former champ Brian Bowles in bantamweight action, while Rick Story and Martin Kampmann compete in a 170-pound bout and Las Vegas’ Stephan Bonnar and San Jose’s Kyle Kingsbury battle at 205 pounds.
A longtime middleweight fighter, Henderson said he would like to stay at 205 pounds unless a rematch with champ Anderson Silva can be made.
“He’s got to beat Shogun first and then we’ll figure it out from there,” White said.
The UFC president also said despite a somewhat turbulent history with Henderson and Hendo’s obvious jokes on Tuesday, the two get along just fine.
“We butt heads here and there but we get along great,” White said. “I respect him as a fighter. He’s a durable, tough guy who’s been out there beating the best in the world.
“And I can’t hate him for knocking Fedor out either. I’m happy to have him back.”