Dan Henderson’s last fight in the UFC against Vitor Belfort had market arrows as its stakes. And right now, two months after getting knocked out for the first time in his career to project his arrow downwards, the 43-year old free agent and the UFC and are still trying to come to terms with Henderson’s value as they hash out a new contract.
Henderson, who has lost three fights in a row, doesn’t have the leverage he’d have gained had he beaten Belfort at UFC Fight Night 32 in Goiania, Brazil on Nov. 9. Even still, as a name brand veteran who can generate marquee fights -- including rematches with the likes of Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio Rua -- the one-time Strikeforce light heavyweight champion says he wants to be treated "fair."
As always, "fair" is a slippery word in negotiations. Henderson appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour to update the latest on his contract situation and his future with the UFC. He said the number the UFC has thrown out right now to his agent is pretty far off from what he judges his value to be.
"I was fairly surprised that it’s as far away as what I thought I fair offer would have been," he said. "I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say I was insulted, but I know what they’re trying to accomplish and trying to get everybody for as cheap as they can. That’s what they like to do. I don’t take it personally, but it was a lot lower than I expected.
"What I was asking for is a decent pay cut from what I was making," he said. "Which I thought was fair."
Henderson says that he would prefer to remain in the UFC, and that right now he emphasized that he’s not interested in talking to other organizations. The Team Quest fighter also said he thought he would fight for two more years, which means he’d like somewhere between four and six more fights.
Asked if he was slashing his purse by 50 percent from the contract he had previously, Henderson went one better.
"I think that they’re trying to slash it quit a bit more than that," he said. "So, I just feel that that’s not realistic from where it should be. But we’re working on it."
Though Henderson said that his agent has been communicating through email with the UFC, it’s taking a little longer to come to terms than he first anticipated.
"I haven’t set a deadline, but it’s getting to that point," he said. "It’s getting to that point that it’s dragging on a little too long, and with the holidays and a couple of shows in December it did drag on a little bit. But I’m pretty sure we’ll get it figured out in the next week or two."
After knocking out Michael Bisping at UFC 100, Henderson was at the end of his first UFC contract in 2009. After negotiations stalled, "Hendo" ended up signing with Strikeforce, where he beat Rafael Cavalcante for the light heavyweight crown, and eventually defeated Fedor Emelianenko in a heavyweight fight. He came back to the UFC with Zuffa’s purchase and integration of Strikeforce into the UFC.
In his first fight back, Henderson and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua put on a battle of the ages on Nov. 19, 2011, at UFC 139. Henderson ended up winning a decision in one of the bloodiest wars of attrition the UFC has ever had. That was the first fight on his now expired four-fight contract.
Since that time, Henderson has lost three bouts in a row. The first two -- against Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 and Rashad Evans at UFC 161 -- were narrow split decision defeats that very realistically could have gone either way.
However, in his last fight against Belfort -- the contract fight -- Henderson was knocked out for the first time in 40 professional bouts. Given the nature of the first two losses, and that he "got caught" with an uppercut against Belfort, Henderson feels that the UFC still wants him on its roster.
"I think they want me to come back," he said. "I don’t want to go anywhere else, it’s not even in my mind right now and I don’t think they want me to go anywhere else either. It’s just something where we’re a little far apart, and we need to sit down and get it hashed out."
Henderson said that he wouldn’t retire even if he and the UFC couldn’t reach an agreement. He also said that once a deal is reached, that he’s open about returning as a middleweight or a light heavyweight, depending on what’s wanted. As far as a timetable for returning to the cage, Henderson said that sometime in April or May would be his preference.
In speculating about the pending initial offer by the UFC that’s on the table right now, in conjunction with the outcome of his most recent fights, Henderson said the amount of overall events -- and diminishing returns on pay-per-view numbers -- might have something to do with it.
"I think, from what I’ve been hearing they’re trying to lower everyone’s purses win or lose, just because pay-per-view numbers aren’t as high as they used to be," he said. "They are having a lot more shows, a lot more pay-per-views, a lot more free cards, so obviously they’re going to do less PPVs when they’re offering so many more cards and shows. It’s just a little too watered down to get as many numbers as they used to on every pay-per-view card."