It might really be happening.
In the aftermath of Michael Bisping's shocking upset of Luke Rockhold to become UFC middleweight champion and Dan Henderson's brutal knock out of Hector Lombard on the same evening, there has been an increasing groundswell of support for giving Henderson the next middleweight title shot. Michael Bisping has joined in on it. Joe Rogan and 29 thousand fans have joined in on it. According to this very scientific poll, 35% of fans have joined in . And now, Dan Henderson has joined in.
In multiple interviews this week, Henderson has let it be known that he would like to rematch Michael Bisping for the middleweight strap and then call it a career.
"(Fighting Bisping) is definitely something that I would do," said Henderson speaking with Nick Peralta on the MMA Discussion podcast. "But it would definitely be my last fight for sure. Win or lose. I'm obviously confident that I would win, but win or lose I would make that my retirement fight."
After his thrilling victory over Lombard at UFC 199, Henderson left his future up in the air, saying that that fight may have been his last one. If it was his final fight, it brings to a close one of the greatest resumes in MMA history. Over his almost 20 year career Henderson has fought arguably (*cough* definitely *cough*) the toughest schedule in the history of the sport, capturing the Pride middleweight and welterweight championships, the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship, as well as winning both the Rings King of Kings 1999 tournament and the UFC 17 middleweight tournament. But despite his many accomplishments in MMA, his most enduring image is his devastating KO of Michael Bisping at UFC 100 (Henderson even uses a silhouette of it for his logo).
Until his championship winning knock out at UFC 199 (and arguably still), it was also the most iconic highlight of Bisping's career. The loss still bothers him to this day and is one he very much would like to get back, telling Fox Sports the loss "haunts" him and that he would like to "dispatch the old man" before moving on to the rest of the division. With Bisping holding the belt, Henderson now says he has motivation to pursue the rematch.
"I don't know how much (longer) I want to fight, it all depends on who they offer me. I'd be interested in maybe one more fight. I'm pretty close to being done though and I asked my fans the other day who do you want me to fight in my last fight and like 99% of them said Bisping. So that's what I hope happens because that's who the fans want to see me fight. There was a couple that said Anderson Silva, a couple that said Fedor. But I think the one right now that makes the most sense. Him winning that title has given me the (motivation) to want to fight him again. I didn't have any reason (before), I wouldn't be able to knock him out any better or more exciting than I did the first time. Now with him having the belt, that gives me a reason, and gives him reason as far as being able to get some redemption."
That title is a big incentive for Henderson who, despite his numerous accolades (and UFC tournament medal) has never held a UFC belt, coming up short in both light heavyweight and middleweight title fights. A win over Bisping now would add the only piece of hardware missing from his collection (and also make him the oldest UFC champion ever) and, according to Henderson, is very doable. In assessing Bisping's title victory Henderson is clear that he doesn't think Bisping has improved since the last time they fought.
"He's always been the same way," he told Peralta. "He's of course well-rounded, he's always in shape. He always tries to outpoint people. I think in this last fight with Luke Rockhold, he landed punches right where he needed to. He hasn't shown big power in the past, so maybe he's gotten a little bit better with his power but it just seemed like he landed some punches that were right on the button and was able to knock Luke out. I don't think he's changed all that much."
As far as where the fight would take place Bisping, the first UFC champion from the United Kingdom, has been vocal in hoping for his first title defense being in England. In an interview with Brian Stann on the Toe-2-Toe show on SiriusXM Rush, Henderson said he isn't opposed to fighting in England but did posit another location.
"If I got the opportunity to [fight Bisping] we could do it anywhere. Obviously closer to home would be better - even the first time in Madison Square Garden would be neat - but it doesn't matter to me."
It doesn't matter to thousands of fans either, just so long as it happens. Only time will tell if it really will though.
5 MUST-READ STORIES
Doubts. Josh Barnett doubts that Brock Lesnar will show improvements at UFC 200.
All about the benjamins. Brock Lesnar says he isn't returning to the UFC for the fans or to prove anything to anyone else.
What about the reach? Daniel Cormier believes he has the "mental ease" needed to beat Jon Jones.
Hard work. Tim Means got a job as a metal fabricator during his USADA suspension.
Lookin' for a fight. Charles Oliveira is upset with his lack of fights recently.
EXTRA CREDIT READING
Promo cutting. Duane Finley of FloCombat did a good interview with Chael Sonnen about fight promotion, highlighted by the quote "Conor wasn't Conor until he was Conor."
Ramadan. Karim Zidan of Bloody Elbow discusses the holy month of Ramadan and why many Muslim MMA fighters abstain from fighting during it.
Brendan Schaub's touching tribute to Kimbo.
Chael Sonnen, career middleweight, appears much larger than DC. Gotta think he could make MW and be reeeeeeeal good there.
Aoki did this super dope thing 8 years ago today.
Think Tommy will ever get new material for these two?
UFC Ottawa and the Orlando tragedy are discussed.
MMA journalism and Dan Henderson's soon to be next opponent are the topics of convo.
Upcoming weekend and Lesnar talk.
This card is lit.
Per @FightMetric: UFC 200 athletes have combined to earn 93 UFC fight night bonuses. Record for combined bonuses on single UFC card.— Dave Sholler (@Sholler_UFC) June 14, 2016
Because Bisping likes good things, Elias. Don't ruin this for us!
I wonder why? :) https://t.co/qcQ9fT338O— The Spartan (@EliasTheodorou) June 14, 2016
I have become irrationally attached to this fight. I might even want it more than Condit vs. Matt Brown.
I believe you'll owe me 2 after this https://t.co/wku1dlZ52N— Dan Henderson (@danhendo) June 11, 2016
This is a nutty (and long) story I encourage you all to read.
News about me & @jameschaneymma fight can be found on my #Facebook https://t.co/EMbyEmUobA read and RT please— Dominique Robinson (@FallenAngel510) June 12, 2016
So @UFC has me as #82 all time. Clearly need to come back and knock some people the F$*& OUT! Who would you like me to fight?— Shane Carwin (@ShaneCarwin) June 14, 2016
C'mon man. Don't get fooled by the smoke and mirrors.
@arielhelwani is Fedor signing with the UFC?— Derrick Lewis (@Thebeast_ufc) June 15, 2016
Even in his visa picture he is wearing a cowboy hat.
I'm on the rehabilitation Canada program!! So all you fuck ups out there is hope pic.twitter.com/tRvuMiMYxE— Cowboy Cerrone (@Cowboycerrone) June 15, 2016
Weidman not feeling the greatest title fight in UFC history.
Haha that would def be the oldest combined age for a title fight ever. #aarp #oxygentanks https://t.co/LkqIg8Djej— Chris Weidman (@ChrisWeidmanUFC) June 11, 2016
Slow day. Might as well spread some rumors around.
Talk is $4 billion. Dana staying on after getting 10% of 4 bill payout. Majority sale. Fertittas out. https://t.co/kSqkMpF3e0— FrontRowBrian (@FrontRowBrian) June 15, 2016
The UFC sale might already be done. William Morris Endeavor involved with financial backing from Chinese private equity.— FrontRowBrian (@FrontRowBrian) June 15, 2016
Hope this means he's back. I miss the welterweight champion of the world. And him versus Matt Brown is my everything.
Real talk, DC should probably compete at MW but if he had never dropped to LHW he'd be the HW champion right now. MMA is nuts.
Guida took Brian Ortega to his first ever wrestling event even after T-City was so very mean to him, letting Guida think he was going to win the fight and then ruthlessly knocking him out.
Kron Gracie (2-0-0) vs. Hideo Tokoro (33-28-2); Rizin FF, September.
TODAY IN MMA HISTORY
2006: Hermes Franca defended his WEC lightweight championship by submitting Brandon Olsen with an armbar in 40 seconds at WEC 21. This event also featured the WEC debut of future promotional light heavyweight champion Brian Stann who knocked out Miguel Cosio in the first round.
2008: Shinya Aoki submitted Katsuhiko Nagata with a (the first ever?) mounted gogoplata at Dream 4.
2013: One of the more injury ravaged events in UFC history, UFC 161 took place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The main event featured Rashad Evans taking a split decision victory over Dan Henderson.
I don't plan to make this a daily occurrence but I thought today I'd editorialize a bit on the Bisping-Hendo/middleweight title situation because it's my column and I can and because maybe, maaaaybe it might engender some fun discussion in the comments section which is usually my goal. If you're one of the people who don't like that, this section sure isn't for you.
Dan Henderson should fight Michael Bisping for the middleweight title and it seems pretty obviously like the fight to make because right now there aren't any other clear cut contenders. The Rockhold fight has appeal because of the rubber match angle but Bisping just knocked him out in under a round - that fight can marinate a bit. Weidman is coming off of a loss. A bad loss. A "holy hell you just got sonned" kind of loss. He needs at least one win before stepping in. And of course Romero has the best current resume for a title shot but he is coming off a USADA ban.
Then there is the issue of Jacare Souza, who seems to be the other fight people suggest. But the issue with Souza is that he is currently on a one fight winning streak, having lost to Romero in December. Granted that loss was highly disputable and Romero did pop for a banned substance afterwards but the reality is it still counts as a loss in the books. Moreover, his resume prior to the Romero loss isn't exactly the stuff of legends. His victory over Belfort is his best win by ranking and other than that his UFC tenure has included one win over a currently ranked opponent - number 8 Gegard Moussasi. Based purely on merit is Jacare the most deserving title challenger? Probably yes. Is his resume so bulletproof that it demands an immediate title shot? Hardly.
The UFC has never been a purely merit based company so in the absence of someone undeniably deserving of a title shot, why not do something fun and go with Henderson? The fight is significantly more marketable than a Jacare bout. You get the story of Henderson vying to be the oldest champion in UFC history at 46 years old. You get Bisping seeking redemption from his most iconic loss. And you get the possible Cinderella ending to Dan Henderson's storied career. There are maybe 7 fighters in MMA history better than Hendo. Winning the UFC title at age 46 puts Hendo unquestionably in the top 5 and is the most remarkable story of a year where Michael Bisping and Miesha Tate - career long also rans - are undisputed and completely deserving champions. If Bisping's title shot was awarded based on "career accomplishment" as many suggested, there is no one more deserving of such a shot than Hendo.
None of this is to mention Bisping's desire to fight in England. Bisping is undefeated in Great Britain and historically the UFC has given him favorable matches there because the home town favorite winning is usually a preferred outcome. To be frank, a match-up with Souza likely ends with Bisping unconscious in one way or another. Against a declining Henderson though, he has an excellent chance to emphatically avenge his earlier loss and put together a fun and title run.
Finally, the UFC's middleweight division is paradoxically better than ever yet without a ton of big stars. Fighting in England means this fight is destined for free TV - the time difference making PPV a less viable option - so why not leverage that to build the next title fight? Put Bisping-Hendo 2 on Fox and make the undercard Weidman vs. Rockhold and Romero vs. Souza rematches (or mix and match, honestly there is no wrong way to do this); whoever dazzles the most gets the next title shot. The fighters will be incentivized to try and out-perform each other both in the cage and on the mic and it also creates a nice little safety net should someone withdraw from the scheduled title fight. If nothing else the post fight presser wherein Bisping/Hendo, and the two other winners go at each other over who deserves the next title shot would be golden.
If not right now, then this fight will never happen. Don't let this be another Jones-Gustafsson. Bisping wants the fight, Hendo wants the fight, and sizable portion of the fan base passionately want the fight. Don't overthink this UFC.
If you find something you'd like to see in the Morning Report, just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and let me know about it. Until tomorrow M-Rmy, be easy.