“Fedor really didn’t have a chance”

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Following 40-some-year-old Dan Henderson’s win over Fedor Emelianenko at last Saturday’s Strikeforce show, our reporter Nalty Junior remembered a chat he had with the two-time Olympic wrestler not long ago behind the scenes at an MMA event. The conversation meandered through subjects like Henderson’s career, the days of Pride FC, and there was plenty of Jiu-Jitsu talk, of course – a style “Hollywood” has been practicing for a decade. “Loyal to Jiu-Jitsu, tuned in to GRACIEMAG for years… Fedor really didn’t have a chance,” thought Nalty.

As a tribute to the stellar performance displayed by Henderson, who turns 41 this coming 24th, we’ve decided to repost Dan’s answers to five questions posed in past issues of CHOKE and GRACIEMAG.

What’s it feel like to have lived through the entire history of MMA?

It’s fun to witness the evolution and progress of the sport while actively participating in it. I never stopped to think about my future in MMA. I never thought I’d be competing for so long. At first all I wanted was make money and pursue my dream of wrestling at the Olympics.

What do you most regret in your career? What are you proudest of?

There were some fights I showed up injured for and should have asked that they be postponed, but it’s not in my nature to do that. Besides that, you have to derive good things from bad experiences, learn from your mistakes. The moment I’m proudest of is holding two Pride belts at the same time.

Hendo during the days of Pride FC / Photo: NOCAUTE archives

What is your view on this combination of wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu?

Wrestling is a great foundation from which to control the fight, but you need Jiu-Jitsu or striking to finish your opponent. I love doing grappling but I never put on the gi. I’d be lost in the gi.

Your former wrestling coach Bob Anderson was a friend of Rolls Gracie (1951-1982), wasn’t he? What did he used to say?

Bob coached me for around 20 years, ever since I was in third grade, when I was eight or nine years old, until I stopped competing in Greco-Roman wrestling. He’d tell us about his trips to Brazil. But we were focused on wrestling, you know, which is a totally different sport, and we had no idea the two styles would one day complement each other in MMA. When I got involved in MMA, that brought back my memories of Bob having gone to Brazil, but he went through all that a really long time ago, so he wasn’t up to date anymore. [Bob Anderson made friends with Rolls in the late 1970s, and Henderson had his first MMA fight, against Crézio de Souza, nearly 20 years later, in 1997].

When was your first contact with submissions?

It was when I was still training with Bob, because he’d make us compete in sambo too, as well as freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. Every now and again I visit Bob and we work out – after all, he’s still a great friend. And he loves MMA. One of these days I’m going to take him to a fight; he’s really busy, though, since he’s been a really great wrestling coach for so many years.

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