(Dan Henderson vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira highlights, via DJIL PROD)
Fun fact: Alexander Gustafsson only got the UFC on FUEL 2 headlining spot against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira because Dan Henderson turned the fight down first. As Ariel Helwani reported on UFC Tonight and via Twitter, ”the original plan was if [Rashad] Evans beat [Phil] Davis, he would face [Jon] Jones. The winner of Hendo/Nog would then fight for the #1 contender. Now, since Hendo turned down the Nog fight, his status is unclear.”
“I was under the impression that [UFC President Dana White] still kind of was on the fence whether he was going to put me in front of Rashad or not, that’s assuming Rashad wins. [White] did offer me a fight with ‘Little Nogueira.’ I didn’t think the fans would be interested in that fight, and not as much time as I would like to prepare for a five-round fight. So I told him I would wait to see what happened with the Rashad fight. I would like to fight Jones now rather than if I took that fight with ‘Little Nog,’ I wouldn’t be fighting Jones until another eight-nine months…
It would have kept me active right now, but I’m okay waiting a little bit. We’ll see what happens with the Rashad fight and go from there. It was more about having the time to prepare. I did inquire and said, ‘Hey, I would be interested in doing it if it was a three-round fight.’ I could have time to prepare for that.”
After such a harrowing end to his 25-minute war against Mauricio Rua, you can understand why Hendo would be a little spooked to jump right back into another five-round main event. But the “fans wouldn’t be interested” excuse is mostly B.S., and it’s clear that this is mostly about staying available just in case the UFC wants to offer him a title shot against Jon Jones. After all, if Phil Davis beats Rashad Evans later this month, the UFC might line-jump Dan Henderson ahead of Davis to create a more marketable light-heavyweight title fight.
That’s the theory, anyway, and Henderson seems to be putting all his eggs in that basket. However, turning down big fights in order to hold out for even bigger fights is the quickest way to get frozen out by the UFC. Ask Rashad Evans, who benched himself in order to wait for a title shot against Mauricio Rua (which never came), and has been paying for it ever since. The UFC asked Hendo to do them a favor, and he said “nah,” so you can expect the UFC to respond the same way when it’s Hendo’s turn to ask.
“Give [the title shot] to Hendo. I ain’t losing. Give it to Hendo. I don’t care either way. You can give it to Hendo and there will still be a belt when I get there. There will still be a belt when I get there. I don’t care who the person is that has the belt but there will be a belt when I get to it and that’s all that I’m concerned about. If somebody else gets to fight the champ before I do, that’s fine with me.”