(Little known fact: The original version of America the Beautiful contained a fifth verse about Don Frye’s shorts.)
In honor of our country’s 236th birthday, we’ve got a special CagePotato Roundtable discussion for you guys: Who was the greatest American MMA fighter of all time? Because let’s face it, America is exceptional, and we produce the best goddamned fighters in the world. SORRY LIBERAL MEDIA, I SAID IT. Enjoy, and if you have an idea for a future Roundtable topic, please send it to email@example.com. And hey, be careful with those bottle rockets, okay?
What do MMA legends Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Tito Ortiz, Kazushi Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva, Randy Couture, and Mark Coleman have in common? They all started their careers within 11 months of Dan Henderson‘s professional debut in June 1997. And where are those guys now? Retired, pretty much retired, retiring this weekend, completely washed up, close to retirement, retired, and retired unless Herschel Walker picks up the phone. Meanwhile, Hendo is preparing for his next title fight in September. Does the TRT help? Sure, though I don’t think you can credit Henderson’s heart, balls, and H-bomb power to a little hormonal help. (You also have to give some props to the Jam Gym.)
I’d stack Dan’s accomplishments up against any other fighter in this roundtable discussion — the unprecedented two-division title reign in PRIDE, the five single-night tournament sweeps, the stunning knockouts of Wanderlei Silva, Michael Bisping, and Fedor Emelianenko — but what makes him America’s MMA G.O.A.T. is his incredible longevity. Dan Henderson has been a top-ten fighter longer than anybody else in the history of the sport. I can only think of two other MMA fighters who started their careers 15 years ago who are still considered viable stars, and neither of them are American: Vitor Belfort, whose career was plagued by long stretches of injury and inconsistency, and Anderson Silva, who’s a freakish exception to any rule.