Dan Henderson ponders his past while looking forward to Rashad Evans fight

USA TODAY Sports

BURBANK, Calif. -- Dan Henderson has made it clear he considers his fight career far from over.

"I'd like to fight five or six more fights," Henderson said Thursday. "I still love the sport, the challenge of it, the challenge of being with in different guys and testing myself on what I'm capable of doing."

But while the 42-year-old Southern California native considers his book far from closed, there have been plenty of memorable chapters written over the course of a 38-fight career.

Among others, there was the knockout of Wanderlei Silva, which made him the only man to hold two weight class titles simultaneously in a major promotion. There was the time he went up to heavyweight and finished the legendary Fedor Emelianenko. And of course, there was his most well-remembered moment, the UFC 100 knockout of Michael Bisping.

So as Hendo gets set for his UFC 161 light heavyweight main event against Rashad Evans on June 15 in Winnipeg, he's allowing himself some time to ponder some of his biggest career accomplishments.

At the time, Henderson didn't consider his Feb. 2007 knockout of Silva in Las Vegas to be a historic moment. Henderson, at the time the PRIDE 183-pound champ, used his big right hand to finish Silva and take the 205-pound belt.

"I didn't think it was a big deal at the time," Henderson said. "I mean, I think there's only been a couple other times where people have even had that opportunity, like B.J. Penn, which astounds me why he showed up out of shape with that opportunity [against Georges St-Pierre at UFC 94]. I didn't think it was that big of a deal. In my mind, I just beat Wanderlei and took his belt."

Eventually, though, Henderson came around on the notion that holding two weight class titles at once, something no one else has done in a major promotion in the modern era, was something pretty special.

"It was something people started talking about later, and they're still talking about it today," Henderson said. "That's when it started sinking in. It wasn't like it was easy to do, but, you know, whether I had the one belt or not and fought Wanderlei, I was planning on beating him regardless. I think I accepted the fight and then a month or two later, I was like, 'hey, is this for the title?' because they were known for doing non-title fights. They said it was for the title and I responded."

While he didn't pick a single biggest career highlight, Henderson made it clear he considered his July 30, 2011 first-round Strikeforce knockout of Emelianenko right up there on the short list. Henderson checked in at 207 pounds for the heavyweight bout, then finished "The Last Emperor" in 4:12.

"That's right up on top with the Wanderlei fight, even though he had lost a couple times before that," Henderson said. "Just for the accomplishments that he's done in this sport, and what he still was capable of doing. I think I feel like he actually got into the gym and trained for that fight, rather than maybe not being very motivated for the couple losses before that. He got motivated, got in shape, and he stood his ground."

Having fought in Japan alongside Emelianenko for so long, Henderson feels Fedor's exalted position during his prime was justified.

"I think in that era, for sure, he was handily beating most everybody and had no problem doing it," Henderson said. "I think he lost the motivation after that point, and the sport evolves so fast. If you're not keeping active, the sport is going to pass you by and I think that's what happened to him."

Then there was the Bisping knockout, the culmination of his "Ultimate Fighter" coaching stint against the outspoken Brit. Henderson said that while it didn't bring as much satisfaction from a professional standpoint as the Silva or Emelianenko wins, fans never stop letting him know how much they enjoyed the moment.

"It's not as big as far as sense of accomplishment," Henderson said. "But I've been hearing about it almost every day. Yeah, I would say since that's happened, there might have been less than 20 days that have gone by without someone saying ‘thank you for that' or usually ‘I just want to say thanks for knocking him out.' Hey, I enjoyed it more than anybody."

Of course, Henderson hopes to have a few knockouts left in his right hand, beginning with the upcoming match against Evans. Both fighters are coming off losses, Henderson's a frustrating split decision against Lyoto Machida at UFC 157.

Henderson left the cage feeling he won the bout, an opinion which didn't change upon later watching the tape of the bout.

"I would have rather have lost a tough fight rather than a frustrating fight where the guy ran and somehow got a decision," Henderson said. "I'm not going to argue with the judges, they're there for a reason and they saw something. I don't know what it was. I watched it once and kind of had the same feeling I had that night. I would have given myself two rounds and him one."

So all he can do is regroup, put the Machida loss behind him, and refocus on Evans, a former UFC light heavyweight champion.

"His last fight could have went either way," Henderson said of Evans' loss to Antonio Rogerio Nogueria. "Neither one of them wanted to pull the trigger on things. It wasn't like nothing happened, but neither one of them got off. I'm not going to have that problem in the fight. I'll be pushing some action, but there's a fine line between pushing it and being over-aggressive."

With any luck, a win over Evans would kick off one final big run.

"As I get older, the challenge gets bigger because I am older, but at the same time, it gets easier because I'm more experienced," Henderson said. "There's a fine line there and I'm sure it's a sliding scale. But I still feel good, and I still enjoy beating people up, so I want to get paid to do what I like."

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