(Pic Props: MMA Photoshops)
Before the ink on the contract dried, MMA fans began debating if Dan “Hendo” Henderson would become the greatest light heavyweight champion of all time should he beat Jon “Bones” Jones at UFC 151. While that is certainly entertaining water cooler fodder, I’m not so sure it’s a conversation we’re even allowed to have at this point. Remember the old Ric Flair maxim, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” Are you certain that Jones is the man? Before you get all up in arms about the perceived blasphemy, consider this: legacies are not born overnight. A legacy is built over years of dominance — after much blood, sweat and tears have been spilled. Although both Jones and Henderson were nominated for being the Best American Fighter in MMA History, I still wasn’t convinced the winner of the fight would automatically reach GOAT status. That’s where Rex comes in. Join us, won’t you, as we banter back and forth over a couple of cold ones…
Alright Rex, before we go any further let’s settle this one small thing: Who is the current holder of the “Greatest Light Heavyweight Champ of All Time?”
RX: Well, technically speaking, Dan Henderson has only held a light-heavyweight championship once: in Strikeforce, for like five minutes before he said “Deuce, bitches” and bulked up to heavyweight. While I think we all agree that a Strikeforce title doesn’t count because LOLOL, the fact remains that Hendo is making a strong argument for true GOAT status, not just as a light heavy, but as a fighter, period.
JM: For me, it’s gotta be Chuck Liddell. His record speaks for itself, but we’ll get to that in a minute. When you think of UFC, you almost immediately think of Liddell. Why do you suppose that is? I’ll tell you — it’s because he was the sport’s first crossover star. The Hall of Famer and former light heavyweight champion “wrote” a best-selling autobiography, made numerous television and movie cameos, and was the first UFC fighter to appear on the cover of ESPN the Magazine. When I think of greatness, I think big-picture, in and out of the Octagon.
Holding the record for the most wins in the Light heavyweight division at 18, “The Iceman” is, and will be for a long time, the Greatest of All Time. Compiling two separate seven-fight win streaks, the mohawked knockout artist was the dominant force to be reckoned with for nearly a decade. During his prime, Liddell held the gold for over two years, leaving a pile of unconscious bodies in his wake. I really wish I still had a copy of his opponent’s contracts from back in the day. Every brave soul who was crazy enough to sign on the dotted line was issued a toe tag and a free consultation with an attorney to set up a Last Will and Testament. (I made that last part up.) You see, Chuck Liddell is one BAMF and if you don’t think he’s the GOAT you should GTFO while I SMDH in utter disappointment.
RX: Oh, there they go. There they go, every time I start talkin ’bout MMA, a white man got to pull Chuck Liddell out they ass. That’s their one! That’s their one! Chuck Liddell! Chuck Liddell! Let me tell you something, once and for all — Chuck Liddell was good; but compared to Quinton Jackson, Chuck Liddell ain’t shit!
Seriously, though — Chuck Liddell made his debut at UFC 17, where he decisioned … some guy, it doesn’t matter. You know who else was at UFC 17? Dan Henderson. Hendo won the UFC’s one-night, four man middleweight tournament that night. Chuck’s last fight, a KO loss to Rich Franklin, was in June 2010. Hendo would win Strikeforce gold that December. He bracketed Liddell’s career, and he’s still a badass.
Oh, PLUS he went to the Olympics in Barcelona and Atlanta, where he (presumably) racked up tons of Olympic cooch. Hold on, I just talked myself into — I need to add ‘Hang with Hendo’ to my bucket list. Hendo beats Liddell all day, brother man.
JM: With or without TRT?
Do you really have beat the man to be the man?
RX: You know, I ran into Arn Anderson once, and I said “Arn, you hang out with Ric Flair, just between me and you, how old is Ric Flair?” You know what Arn told me, he said “Hey, Ric Flair is 137 years old.” A hundred and thirty-seven years old!
JM: In this case, certainly not. Chuck’s a shell of his former self and is retired to boot. Now, if we were talking about the greatest middleweight of all time, then yeah, beating Anderson Silva would be a prerequisite for the GOAT conversation. Because Henderson can’t actually fight Liddell, we can only speculate — a dangerous charge. That being said, “Hendo” can make his claim for the coveted title starting with a win over Jon Jones at UFC 151.
Either way, many people will still see it differently. At UFC 151, current champ Jon Jones will fight Dan Henderson and the winner will become immortalized. However, immortality doesn’t equate with being the greatest of all time. (Think Ken Shamrock) If Dan Henderson wins, does that make him the absolute greatest man to ever wear the light heavyweight strap?
RX: Oh yeah, topic. I agree that you don’t have to beat the man to be the man, because the whole game of pinning the tail on the GOAT is mostly a discussion to spill ink over. The whole point is arguing about it, since obviously we’ll never see the true greats all fight one another.
JM: I concur with Rex. I’ve got all the respect in the world for the man who shut Bisping’s loud mouth. He’s one of the most decorated mixed martial artists the sport has ever seen, and is sure to find his place in the UFC Hall of Fame according to Dana White. All things considered, Henderson’s success has been aided by TRT, Chuck’s was not. End of story.
RX: If you’re looking for Hendo’s unfair advantage, I say it’s less about his TRT and more about his Leno chin.
Okay, let’s say Dan does win on September 1st. He fights a few more fights before going out to pasture. What then, must Jon Jones do to [reclaim/become] the LHW GOAT label?
RX: What? If a prime Jones loses to Hendo — yes, a legend, but a legend at the tail end of his meteoric career — I think he’s out of the conversation. Conversely, Hendo puts himself into the conversation with a win. But yeah, Jones? Jones would have to smoke everybody forever for people to let him live that one down.
JM: Jones needs to continue his dominance for another five years. That’s not to say he has to remain unbeaten. (Don’t even go there. That was a BS call and you know it!) He’s on the right track for sure, he just needs to keep it going. Holding the title that was so darn slippery to a handful of his predecessors is a testament to his increasing greatness. I don’t doubt that he will eventually earn the ‘Greatest of All Time’ crown as he becomes the modern day Chuck Liddell — the fearsome fighter who transcends MMA and crosses over into the mainstream, like for instance, his deal with Nike.
Well, there you have it. To borrow a line from your favorite writer here at CP, “What say you, Potato Nation?”