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UFC 139's Dan Henderson Willing To Overlook Immediate UFC Title Shot Snub For Worthy Adversaries

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Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson believes he should've received an immediate title shot against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones upon his matriculation to the UFC. But he's willing to wait, if for no other reason than his opponent this weekend, Shogun Rua, is as worthy a foe as any.

PHOTO CREDIT: Esther Lin, MMAFighting.com
PHOTO CREDIT: Esther Lin, MMAFighting.com

Where is Dan Henderson now?

In his judgement, he's mired somewhere between bureaucratic red tape and in the right position to face the best possible competition. Henderson believes his matriculation from Strikeforce should've been met with an immediate title shot against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. And yet, Henderson is placated by the reality his opponent this weekend, Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua, is exactly the sort of stiff challenge that keeps his appetency for competition alive and well.

In this exclusive interview with MMA Nation on 106.7 The Fan, the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion opens up about his feelings about returning to the UFC, what should happen to Strikeforce, the physical advantages he takes into his UFC 139 fight, whether Wanderlei Silva should retire and more.

Full audio and transcript below:

Luke Thomas: Joining us now on the McDonald's hot line, he takes on Mauricio "Shogun" Rua this Saturday, 9 p.m. at UFC 139 for the first time ever in San Jose, California at the HP Pavilion, the one and only Dan "Hendo" Henderson. Dan, how are you?

Dan Henderson: I'm good. How are you doing?

Luke Thomas: Dan, there seems to be a pep in your step. How good does it feel to be back in the UFC?

Dan Henderson: It feels good. I'm just happy to be out there fighting and staying in shape and having a job.

Luke Thomas: So it's kind of interesting. If there hadn't been this Strikeforce takeover in February or so, you would still be happily fighting for Strikeforce.

Dan Henderson: Yeah, I've got no complaints about fighting in Strikeforce. It just worked out with the way the UFC bought Strikeforce and the better matchups and the fights they wanted to see me in, the opponents are in the UFC so that's why they put me over here.

Luke Thomas: What do you think is going to happen with Strikeforce?

Dan Henderson: You know what? It's hard to say. It's hard to say what they're doing with it. They pulled 2-3 of the champs out so far and moved them over to the UFC so maybe they're gonna use it like a builder organization for the UFC and keep Strikeforce the way it is on Showtime. I don't know. It's not my deal.

Luke Thomas: Last question about it. Would you like to see them keep it around in some form or another or does it not matter one way or another?

Dan Henderson: No, I would love to see them keep Strikeforce around. I would have liked to see them keep it the way it was and build it up and make it to where they were putting the champs against each other but right now it looks like they're taking the champs out of there.

Luke Thomas: You're fighting at UFC 139 this weekend, it's a huge fight card. Fight fans are obviously buzzing about this particularly in the main event which we'll get to in a moment. Any concern on your part though that the big UFC on FOX event maybe overshadowed 139 given that they were in such close proximity?

Dan Henderson: No, not at all. Not at all. I think they used that to help promote the fight and they've been airing promotions on FOX and different FOX channels for a while now and both shows and during the show last weekend they were trying to promote this one so I don't see that being a concern especially since that wasn't a pay-per-view, that one was free so people aren't spending money two weeks in a row.

Luke Thomas: Alright so you're taking on Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, former UFC light heavyweight champion of the world and obviously had a distinguished Pride career as well. What does a win over Rua get you? Some folks are suggesting that if you win this, with Rashad Evans agreeing to take another fight instead of waiting for Jon Jones again, that you could potentially get a title shot against Jon Jones? Do you believe a win over Shogun Rua puts you right in line for a title shot?

Dan Henderson: I was probably thinking that I was in line for a title shot just coming out of Strikeforce as their champ. That's how they should have done it but Rashad was in there at the time and it's just the way it went and that's the way it goes. At this point, I haven't thought about it in a couple months. I'm just focusing on Shogun. Nothing's gonna work out the way I want it unless I get through Shogun and he's a tough opponent so I need to make sure I'm focused on him.

Luke Thomas: Shogun Rua, do you believe the knee surgeries have had an adverse affect on him? Not to say he isn't  dangerous , not to say he isn't good, he's all those things but have the knee surgeries slowed him down a notch or two or not?

Dan Henderson: I think a couple years ago yeah but not now. He looks like he's back in form and dangerous as ever. He's definitely an opponent that I gotta be real careful for and make sure I'm controlling the whole figtht.

Luke Thomas: When you fight Shogun Rua, what do you have to watch out for? He's got a great clinch, he sort of bulldozes people straight forward with strikes. Obviously good on the ground, has a decent trip takedown from the body lock. What are you looking for?

Dan Henderson: I'm just looking to wear him out and make him work hard that first round or two and then he's not as dangerous. He's got some good knees, good kicks and an unorthodox punching style.

Luke Thomas: Who has the speed advantage here?

Dan Henderson: That I don't know. I think he's quick with his kicks but as far as hands go, I don't know. He's not a guy that I'm worried about his speed.

Luke Thomas: In terms of cardio, some folks have said they trained as hard as they could possibly push their body. They get the best nutritionist, the best strength and conditioning coach and they still seem to be plagued by bad cardio throughout the course of their career. Now Shogun Rua has had some good performances but he also seems to fade late. Is he not getting the right training or do you believe that there are just guys that don't have the biological capability to have that endless gas tank?

Dan Henderson: Yeah, I think it's a combination of everything. He definitely could train harder and he typically looks a little bit soft during his fights. That could be genetic, who knows? As far as fading out the way he does, I would assume that's got the most to do with training. Some guys that are really muscular and have an aggressive fight style need to make sure they stop and recover for 10-15 seconds during the fight but Shogun I don't think fits that category either. I don't know. I'm not worried about it. I'm just going to go out there and push the pace and test his cardio.

Luke Thomas: Two quick questions before we leave you here, we really appreciate your time again speaking with Dan Henderson, the main event this weekend UFC 139. Dan, you still follow competitive wrestling. Jordan Burroughs, we spoke with him a couple of weeks ago. Do you think he can win Olympic gold in 2012?

Dan Henderson: Who knows? I hope so. I'm always pushing for our wrestling guys to do well especially in the Olympics.

Luke Thomas: Is it fair to say he's the best active American competitor?

Dan Henderson: You know, that I don't know. I know there's a lot of guys out there that are capable of getting medals but you know, we'll see. Hopefully he does real well.

Luke Thomas: If you could, offer us a prediction for the co-main event. Wanderlei Silva, a man who you've had history with, taking on Cung Le, a fellow former Strikeforce alum. How's that gonna play out? They're both sort of in different positions in their careers, long layoffs, Silva's been in a thousand wars, who wins?

Dan Henderson: You know, I think Wanderlei's always dangerous and he's as dangerous as ever with all that experience he's had but I don't think his chin is there anymore and Cung Le is one of the best strikers out there. Definitely one of the best kickers out there. I would have to go with Cung Le definitely by knockout. I'm a fan of Wanderlei just like anyone else so it's kind of sad to see if he does get knocked out again but it's my prediction.

Luke Thomas: Yes or no, should he retire if Wanderlei does get knocked out again?

Dan Henderson: Yes.

Luke Thomas: Alright, Dan Henderson, 9 p.m. this weekend takes on Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, UFC 139. It will be on pay-per-view at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California and of course will be available anywhere pay-per-views are sold. Dan, best of luck to you against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and thank you for your time.

Dan Henderson: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Transcription provided by Brian Hemminger: @GotaHemmi