Monday, March 5, 2007

Pride Middleweight and Welterweight Champ Henderson Enjoying New Belt

By Derek Constable

Dan HendersonMarch 3, 2007 - Wanderlei Silva’s not a man many people look forward to facing, but just five days after knocking out Silva in the third round of their middleweight title bout, Dan Henderson said that’s exactly how he felt going into PRIDE 33.

“I got excited every time I thought about it, I had goose bumps,” Henderson said.
The win over Silva unified Pride’s middleweight and welterweight title, making Henderson the first MMA champion to hold belts in two weight classes simultaneously.

“I didn’t realize that it was that big of a deal until I did it, and everyone started talking about the fact that it’s never been done before,” he said.

More amazing than the milestone itself was the fact that Henderson finished the fight after fracturing a hand in the very first round. He showed no sign of it bothering him from the start of Round 2 up until he KO’d the former champ with a ferocious left hook in Round 3.

“I don’t know exactly when I broke it. It was probably a lot of the adrenaline,” Henderson said. “I just focused on what I had to do after the first break between rounds. I felt so good in what I was doing, it never hurt me. I just kept fighting.”

Henderson is a former Olympic wrestler, who competed in 1992 and 1996, and while he’s known for his intensity and heavy hands in MMA, he said that it was his many years of wrestling that have made him the guy he is today.

“There are a lot of guys that are good in cage fighting who haven’t [qualified for an] Olympic team, but if you’ve been on one, it shows you put in the work and your dedicated both mentally and physically – you’re going to be ready.”

Henderson was more than ready for this last fight in Las Vegas , a rare appearance by PRIDE on American soil. He said it was definitely a nice change as an American whose been fighting in for eight years.

“I definitely still want to fight in as well, but it was a welcome change to have my friends and family there, it made all the difference in the world.”

Silva defeated Henderson by in 2000, but Henderson said this rematch wasn’t about settling scores, saying, “It was so long ago the first time, obviously it felt good to beat him the other night, but it wasn’t about settling the score it was about making history and taking his belt. Either way it felt good.”

Henderson joins Randy Couture as the only other MMA fighter to hold a world title in two different weight classes, but he is the first and only one to hold both belts at the same time.

Couture became the newest UFC Heavyweight champion, and the UFC’s first five-time champion, after going the distance five rounds with Tim “The Mainiac” Sylvia on Saturday at UFC 68. Many questioned Couture’s decision to move up a weight class in his return from retirement, but Saturday’s performance solidified Randy Couture as one of the greatest MMA champions of all time, in addition to surprising a few fans and friends.

“I don’t think it was the smartest decision to fight someone like Tim his first fight out,” Henderson said of Couture two days before the big fight, “but I’m not involved in his training and am looking on it from the outside … he might know something that we don’t.”

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