In addition to his crushing fists, Dan Henderson
is known for a quick wit. When CBS President and CEO Les Moonves stopped by a recent open workout to say hello, he mentioned that he was going to try to make it to Nashville for Saturday's Strikeforce on CBS card.
"I told him I could probably get him a good seat," Henderson quipped.
While Moonves, who reportedly makes over $30 million a year as the CBS head honcho, mulls over an invitation to Hendo's guest list, the growing interest of the CBS brass highlights the importance of this card, which features three championships fights, including Henderson against Jake Shields
in the middleweight title main event.
To date, Henderson has been the biggest-name signee to defect from the UFC to Strikeforce, and so much of the expectation of doing a good rating rests on his shoulders.
In fact, much of the promotion of the fight on CBS has centered around the Henderson-Shields fight, including commercials during the recent NCAA men's basketball championship tournament, as well as ad spots during the network's popular Monday night comedy block.
Despite those big hopes, his new surroundings and a title at stake, the mellow Californian seems to be taking it all in stride.
"I'm just anxious to get in there and go back to work," he told MMA Fighting in a recent interview. "It's nine or 10 months since my last fight. That's way too long. So I just want to get in there and beat Jake Shields up."
The delay for Henderson came in resolving his contract situation. Going into his UFC 100 matchup with Michael Bisping
, Henderson was in the last fight of his UFC deal. He says he had every expectation of coming to terms on a new contract and staying with the company. After a spectacular KO of Bisping ensued, it seemed even more likely the UFC would want to keep a man who authored one of the sport's moments of the year. But when contract negotiations dragged on, Strikeforce became a legitimate option.
"I didn't start talking to Strikeforce until quite a ways after," he said. "I wanted to give the UFC a chance to figure things out, and see what they wanted to do with me fight-wise and financially. With them not giving me a title fight, I would've been OK with it if they gave me what I was asking for. It was not a whole lot more money. They pay some other guys quite a bit more."
Henderson said he was "very surprised" that the UFC wasn't willing to meet his price, but says that ultimately, each side had to make the business decision that suited them.
"I have no hard feelings and I'm grateful for what they do for our sport," he said.
In the meantime, while he was figuring out his future, Henderson spent time traveling, both for seminars and for personal pleasure. He says it took him a bit longer than normal to get his body used to training again, but he's satisfied with his preparation.
Shields (24-4-1) is notorious for his overwhelming ground game, and is in the midst of a 13-fight win streak. Six of his last eight victims have tapped out due to submissions.
Henderson said that while he's not overconfident, he feels he is better than Shields in every aspect of the fight, including grappling.
"He does a really good job at controlling and holding people down, and kind of humping out the decision," he said. "I think he's very effective at it. It's not the most exciting style. There are a lot of fighters that are that way. I guess you have to have different styles to make things interesting. As a fan, I'd rather watch someone that's going to stand up and trade punches and bang a little bit, and maybe go for a submission here and there."
The challenger concedes that a Shields takedown is a good possibility, but that ultimately, victory is inevitably his.
"It's always nice to be considered the champion and have the belt, so I'm excited for the opportunity," he said. "But I have bigger goals than just this. And it all starts with the fight I'm going to have to fight to beat Jake Shields."
Asked about the "bigger goals," Henderson says there are plenty of other guys he wants to face. And while he plans to stay at 185 for his next fight, he admits that it is still a possibility to compete at 205 again -- and even beyond.
One name he throws out after a little prodding?
"I would love to have that chance to fight Fedor [Emelianenko
]," he says. "I think that would be the ultimate challenge, and that's what excites me. I'm sure that's on people's mind, but nothing's going to happen if I don't keep winning fights, and I have to start by beating Jake."[Editor's Note: Dan Henderson will be doing a live chat for MMA Fighting readers on Wednesday at 4 pm ET/1 pm PT. Visit MMAFighting.com then to post questions and read his responses.]