The legacies of professional athletes are defined by championships. Many athletes have stellar careers, but have never been a world champion for their sport.

Dan Henderson falls into this category.

Technically speaking, “Hendo” was a UFC champion. He defeated Carlos Newton to win the middleweight tournament at UFC 17. He has not been a “modern-day” UFC champion, however. He brought gold into a title unification bout at UFC 75 against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, but that was in the form of a Pride championship, not one of the UFC variety. His last chance to crawl back up the contender ladder will come on Nov. 9 when he faces Vitor Belfort at UFC Fight Night 32 in Goiania, Brazil.

For those who became a fan of MMA in the late 90s, Henderson provides the same type of nostalgic feel as Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture. He is synonymous with those who have helped build the sport to what it is today. Henderson became the Pride welterweight (183-pound) champion in 2005. Two years later, he beat Wanderlei Silva to become the Pride middleweight (205-pound) champion. For good measure, “Hendo” added a Strikeforce light heavyweight championship in 2011. But he has not been what many consider to be a world champion MMA fighter. He has not taken top honors in the most prestigious promotion, the UFC.

Fans would be hard pressed to find a more impressive career. Over the course of his 16-year professional run, Henderson has racked up 29 wins (13 by knockout), and earned four titles in three different weight classes. He has provided fans a highlight reel of knockouts, led by the “H-Bomb” he unloaded on Michael Bisping at UFC 100.

In 39 career fights, Henderson has never been knocked out. Of his 10 losses, only three have not gone to a decision. At 43 years old, many are expecting him to hang up his gloves at any moment and wrap up what should be a Hall of Fame UFC career. Or is it?

The glaring achievement missing from Henderson’s legendary career is that UFC championship belt. Furthermore, while he has an outstanding career, his record in the Octagon is only 6-4. Henderson’s victories in the UFC have come against Allan Goes, Carlos Newton, Rousimar Palhares, Rich Franklin, Michael Bisping and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. The four losses have come against Rampage, Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans. Two of those fights (Jackson and Silva) were for the UFC belt, but he failed to capitalize upon the opportunities.

It would be unfair to say “Hendo” can’t win when the title is on the line. He has shown throughout his career that he can rise to the occasion with the championship in reach. Unfortunately, he hasn’t come through in a UFC title fight.

Should Henderson retire without earning UFC gold, it would not diminish anything he has accomplished as a professional fighter. It would, however, put him in the undesirable club of the best UFC fighters never to hold a UFC title.

Henderson deserves better than that.

Photo: Dan Henderson (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Joe Chacon
Staff Writer

Joe Chacon is a Southern California writer that has also spent time as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, as well as a Staff Writer for Operation Sports. Joe has a passion for the sport of MMA, as well as most other sports.

  • john

    Dan Henderson has nothing to prove to the likes of any one thinking he has got to get a UFC belt or anyone of the thinking that he falls into an undesirable group of great fighters that never held a UFC belt.. As you stated in your rant he did get a UFC middle weight tournament belt , as you also listed a few of his other belts I believe you left out a few things also like= 2011 Fight of the year(voted by six different sports magazines), 2011 Round of the year,1999 King of the Ring tournament winner,1997 Brazil open tournament winner, 2005 Welter weight Pride Grand Prix winner, Knock out of the year 2009, and in many peoples opinion he could have taken a win in 3 of his 4 UFC losses ,Jackson, Evans, Machida all close fights. Its foolish to think Dan Henderson is not one of the best fighters to ever set foot in the Octagon …….

  • Tom

    Hendo doesn’t needs to prove anything, he IS A CHAMP. Not holding an actual UFC title means nothing, and doesn’t down on anything he has accomplished. And he is still fighting at a high performance level, he is far from over the hill like most 40 year old fighters become. Hendo is a legend, and will be a hall of famer without doubt, regardless of holding UFC Gold.