Before Nate Diaz, Conor McGregor and the rest of the athletes taking part in UFC 202 hit the scales on Friday, two longstanding rivals that will meet for a second time took the stage to discuss their pending altercation.
After getting under each other’s skin while coaching opposing sides on the ninth season of The Ultimate Fighter, the two met at UFC 100, where Henderson ended the contest with one of the most memorable knockouts in UFC history, punctuating the finish with a flying forearm smash that remains his brand logo to this day. That loss has stuck in Bisping’s craw since and now that he’s achieved his goal of becoming UFC middleweight champion, “The Count” is ready to get his revenge.
“UFC 100 was a long time ago. I just recently watched that fight back and I cringed watching it,” Bisping said amid a chorus of boos at Friday’s press conference. “It was a terrible performance. God bless, Dan Henderson – he got the job done on that night.
“I want to beat this guy, of course; he knocked me out. But Dan Henderson couldn’t beat Anderson Silva. Dan Henderson couldn’t win a UFC title. Dan Henderson is famous for one thing and that’s knocking me out at UFC 100. I made your career, Dan, and after UFC 204, that will be eradicated.”
While the champion has plenty of reasons to be fired up and taking shots at the challenger in advance of his contest, the always laid back Henderson was quick to brush off the obvious personal undertones of this fight on the Bisping side of things.
“For me, it’s never been anything personal,” said Henderson, who enters the contest off a thrilling knockout win over Hector Lombard at UFC 199 earlier this summer. “It’s all about the sport, winning and the belt for me.”
Despite a storied career that includes being the only man to hold two PRIDE world titles simultaneously and memorable showdowns with a who’s who of the best fighters to ever compete in mixed martial arts, the one accolade that has escaped Henderson throughout his 19 years in the sport is a UFC title.
He challenged for championship gold on back-to-back occasions following his tremendous run under the PRIDE banner, facing Quinton “Rampage” Jackson for the light heavyweight title at UFC 75 before meeting Anderson Silva in a middleweight title bout six months later at UFC 82. In both cases, Henderson came up short and after winning titles in every other promotion he’s competed in over the years, “Hendo” wants to add a UFC belt to his collection before he walks away.
“I’ve loved this sport for a long time and I’ve been blessed to have a career as long as I have,” said Henderson, who confirmed earlier in the press conference that win or lose, he’ll be hanging up his four-ounce gloves following this bout. “I was ready to move on after the last fight, but obviously this is an opportunity that I wouldn’t pass up.
“I feel good about having this fight be my last fight. Win or lose, I’m going to make sure that I give everything that I have and have no regrets. That’s all I can do in life and in this sport and I’m going to make sure I take full advantage of this opportunity and put him on his ass again.”
It would certainly be a fairytale ending to a career if Henderson were to claim the title before walking away, but this isn’t Hollywood and Bisping made it clear that the belt isn’t going anywhere in October.
“Dan Henderson is not going to win this fight; we all know this. He ain’t gonna win,” offered Bisping, who claimed the title in upset fashion back in June, stepping in on short notice to defeat Luke Rockhold at UFC 199. “He’s a one-trick pony, he’s got a right hand. He’s old. He’s slow. I’m too fast. I’m a better fighter.
“God bless him, he’s had a good career, but we all know he ain’t gonna win this fight.”
Confident as he may be, however, Bisping is acutely aware that facing Henderson is a high-risk, low-reward matchup – at least in the eyes of observers that aren’t bent on avenging a loss that has stuck with them their entire career – and those circumstances have him fired up, even this far out from fight night.
“I’m very proud to be the world champion and I plan on hanging on to this for a long, long time,” he said, motioning to the UFC belt resting in front of him on the dais. “I get a chance for revenge. I get to get that one back off Dan and if I lose – it doesn’t matter who it is – if I lose, I lose the belt, simple as that, and that’s not good.
“Regardless of the opponent, I’ve got to win this fight.”