Henderson plays it cool ahead of UFC 139 showdown against Rua
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Even if you didn't know how Dan Henderson had made his living for the last 14 years of his life, you could probably take a look at his face and get it right within three guesses. George Orwell once claimed that by age 50, every man has the face he deserves. After a lifetime of first Greco-Roman wrestling and then prizefighting in four-ounce gloves, "Hendo" already has his, and with about nine years to spare.
Now that Henderson's 41, back in the UFC and with, conceivably, another chance to earn yet another championship belt, it's somewhat understandable that a general air of don't-give-a-damnness hovers around him like a cloud of smoke.
At Wednesday afternoon's open workout in San Jose, Henderson sauntered up to the waiting press like a man impressed with his own enduring patience. These same questions. These same concerns that seem to matter to everyone but him. Whatever we could dish out ahead of his main event bout with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 139 on Saturday night, he was prepared to take.
For instance, is he still angling for a rematch with middleweight champ Anderson Silva?
"I wasn't asking for Anderson at all," he replied. "I think the UFC wanted that fight to happen. I was more asking for a title fight in the light heavyweight division."
But seriously, he wants another crack at Silva, right?
"I'll be here for a while and hopefully the fight happens," he shrugged. "If not, I'm not going to lose sleep over it."
Even the fight with Rua, which seemed to many fans like the kind of dream matchup you'd make if you could go back in time and rearrange a Pride FC fight card in the Japanese promotion's heyday, barely drew more than a bemused smirk from Henderson, who referred to the matchup as "something I haven't really thought about over the years."
In case you're wondering, no, this attitude is not particularly new for Henderson. Maybe it's that old-school wrestler mentality, where every fight is just a glorified version of the same thing he's been doing since he was a kid (albeit with a greater deal of money on the line these days) and if he has to sit through this song and dance to get his check at the end of the week, fine.
It's the calm that comes with an untold number of battles both in the cage and on the mats, but don't let it fool you. Once fight time finally arrives, Henderson is as fierce a competitor as any. That he's still here tells you that much, even as his contemporaries stumble and fall all around him.
Take Wanderlei Silva, for instance. Six years Henderson's junior, he and Henderson met back in 2007 when Henderson knocked him stiff in Las Vegas. Afterward Henderson invited fans to his after-party at the Stratosphere, "or you can go to Wanderlei's in the hospital," he added.
Now Silva is on the same card, fighting for his very UFC existence as he struggles to prove he can still take a punch as well as he can throw one. Henderson has his doubts, and he's not alone.
"His chin isn't there anymore, and with his style it's not conducive to winning fights if you're going to go out there and bang with guys and you can't take a punch," Henderson said. "It's unfortunate. I was a big fan of his as well, and I loved watching him fight. But that happens, I think, to a lot of guys with that style -- Chuck [Liddell] is the same way, that's his style too. There just comes a time when you've got to realize that."
Not Henderson, though. Even in his 40s it still hasn't caught up with him. He can wrestle rather than brawl. He can pick and choose and use that brutal right hand of his to get him out of a jam when he needs it. He could do this forever, or so it seems on days like this. Then again, not all the days are like this, he admitted.
"I don't feel 41," he quipped. "Well, some days I do. Some days I feel older."
The one thing he never seems to feel, apparently, is any sense of awe about where he is and what he's still able to accomplish at this point. Sure, he'd like a shot at the champion. One of them, anyway. Whoever's game. Winning a UFC title is, in his words, "definitely on the goal list."
You know, right up there with driving a race car and visiting Paris.
But that's just Hendo. Maybe when you've been doing this your whole life, you don't expect it to feel like anything special. Maybe you're a little embarrassed for the people who treat it that way, who stick microphones in your flattened fighter's face and want you to talk about it. Maybe, with the way you're going, you can continue on this way indefinitely. At least until somebody makes you stop or you just get bored of it all. Whichever comes first.