Of all the ballparks, in all the towns, in all the world, Dan “Hendo” Henderson had to walk into this one on a Tuesday afternoon.
With a jet-lagged kind of look, the mixed martial arts fighter considered one of the best pound for pound, walked into massive Dodger Stadium and took a load off his feet to catch a baseball game for crying out loud.
“I just got off the plane,” said Henderson. “I was invited to the game by Brad (Penny).”
Wearing a simple T-shirt and jeans, Henderson jumped off the jet plane from France with his family in tow and promptly sat down with a fatigued wrinkle on his brow. Dodger dogs and maybe a beer were in order.
Dodger ace Penny, a good friend of both Henderson and former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight Tim Sylvia, asked the former Pride FC welterweight and middleweight champion to take in a game.
The Victorville native now living in Temecula has always accepted challenges. It’s his nature to prove whenever possible that all those years spent first as a wrestler extraordinaire, then an MMA fighter, have not diminished his abilities one iota.
On this day he accepted the invitation because despite the overwhelming fatigue, Henderson even challenges physical barriers like sleep and rest because for him it’s also a mind battle.
The Year 2008 has not been good to Henderson and TeamQuest, an organization he co-founded several years ago with fellow wrestlers Matt Lindland and Randy Couture. In fact, it’s doing poorly so far with a number of losses endured by the Temecula-based training center.
Worst of all, it’s dynamic leader Henderson lost once again.
“With me losing it wasn’t a good start for the year and a couple of our guys losing at the end of 2007,” said Henderson. “We’re kind of in a downer.”
But you don’t rise to international fame and success without grasping at history-making events such as his light heavyweight title match against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and the recent middleweight title bout with Anderson Silva. It’s those electrifying meetings that define a fighter.
Henderson never stops thinking about improving himself. It’s a fire inside that never dims.
“I don’t know how much I would do differently,” said Henderson about his loss to Silva on March 1, 2008. “My body was feeling odd that night. I didn’t have the best weight-cut the last day and a half. My body felt a little fatigued.”
Every fighter knows the feeling. Some days you just don’t have it.
“The first round I was OK, but not as explosive as I normally am. When I had him on the ground, I should have exploded on some big elbows when I had the great position,” Henderson said about mounting the Brazilian champion when they fought.
The following round proved to be the last of their encounter.
“In the second round my body was real fatigued and I should have had a takedown when I had him in the clinch. I ended up getting caught a little bit,” said Henderson, who is several inches shorter than Silva though both are listed as six-feet, one-inch in height. “Once on the ground I was fine but got caught with a pretty good punch on the ground and dazed me. The next thing I knew he had my back. I didn’t fight my fight. I wasn’t there 100 percent.”
The former Olympic wrestler said he would have changed aspects of his fight against Jackson when they fought last June, but nothing would change if he fought Silva again.
“Against Jackson if I had done things differently I would have won that fight,” said Henderson who lost by a decision. “I was satisfied. But not against Silva. I’m a much better fighter than him and more well-rounded. He caught me and that’s the way it goes. I felt he was more lucky against me.”
Realizing that second opportunities are rare, Henderson is prepared to wait his turn.
“I want to earn my way to a rematch,” said the 37-year-old Henderson. “He’s definitely a talented fighter but no comparison if I’m 100 percent. But that’s no fault to him.”
Though he spent nine days up and down Europe the former Pride champion did not spend the entire span waltzing through tourist traps.
“The first day I got to Europe I drove from Paris to Belgium,” Henderson said. “I had to work the corner of a guy of mine. He won by TKO.”
Then he put on his ambassador’s hat and spoke at an MMA seminar in Brussels, and three in France including Paris, Dunkirk and Toulouse.
“They just legalized MMA in France,” said Henderson who spoke about the sport and also provided a four-minute exhibition while there.
It wasn’t all work. Some sightseeing did occur.
“We went and saw the typical sights: the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre museum, Eiffel Tower,” he said. “In all honesty I didn’t have a lot of time.”
That’s over for now. It’s back to work and back to winning.
Recently, one TeamQuest fighter captured a win in Canada. Another, Mark Bocek is poised to fight in the upcoming UFC 83 card in Montreal, Quebec this Saturday April 19. It’s the first UFC event for that country.
Henderson is in Montreal assisting Bocek.
Video: MMA from NBC Sports
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