Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Dan Henderson has yet to defend the 205-pound title that he took from Rafael Cavalcante earlier this year. And if recent comments (or lack thereof) from promotion president Scott Coker are any indication, "Hendo" may never get the opportunity.
Coker was tongue-tied and twisted when the contract status and future of Henderson, who became a free agent after his thrilling first round finish of Fedor Emelianenko in a recent non-title "super fight," was brought up during a recent conference call to promote the Strikeforce World Heavyweight Grand Prix: "Barnett vs. Kharitonov" event on Sept. 10, 2011.
"There are ongoing discussions with Hendo," Coker succinctly stated. "It just hasn't been determined yet."
Not the passionate plea or quiet confidence that one would expect from a promoter who is eager to retain the services of one of his few remaining prized possessions. Perhaps it's because Henderson will likely follow in the footsteps of his two other champions, Alistair Overeem and Nick Diaz, and into negotiations with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Henderson recently made headlines when he was mentioned as a possible candidate to main event the first-ever UFC Fight Night on Fox special that is scheduled for Nov. 12, 2011. In fact, Lorenzo Fertitta, co-owner of Zuffa LLC, the parent company of UFC and now Coker's San Jose, Calif.-based outfit, publicly remarked that he would "love" to have Henderson fight on Fox in a rematch with UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.
UFC President Dana White has since stated that rumors of Silva's involvement on the promotion's landmark television network debut are simply untrue. Henderson's name, however, has yet to be ruled out.
Meanwhile, it seems as though Coker, who himself may not even be acutely aware of the exact plan for Henderson, or any of his notable fighters after they satisfy their contracts for that matter, seems content to focus on what he does know and what he can control, for now, anyway.
"I like to watch the fight [between Muhammed Lawal and Roger Gracie] and stir the pot after," he said in response to the upcoming 205-pound fight being a number one contender eliminator match. "Let's see who wins and how they win. We also have some other fights coming up in the 205-pound weight class. Mike Kyle is a guy who is going to be fighting shortly, as well as Gegard Mousasi, who will probably be fighting before the end of the year. So we have some great 205-pound match ups and when the timing is right we will let everyone know."
Great 205-pound match ups that seemingly won't include the best light heavyweight, and reigning champion, on the roster.
For Zuffa and Henderson, 41, the choice seems simple: Compete against the best in the world -- Jon Jones, Rashad Evans and Quinton Jackson, among others -- before he gets even older or pick over Strikeforce's light heavyweight leftovers who, if they are good enough, will likely be brought over to the UFC eventually, anyway.
Coker, meanwhile, is doing the best he can with the information he has. Unfortunately, he's also being made to sound like MMA's version of Baghdad Bob.