In a recent interview with Fanhouse, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker touched on many topics surrounding his organization, most notably the signing of UFC and Pride veteran, Dan Henderson. He also offered an update on their Russian prizefighter Fedor Emeliananko’s injured thumb, upcoming events, and Dana White’s comments regarding Strkeforce’s financial stability.
The eventual signing of the former Olympic wrestler was an ongoing process that took months amid numerous salary rumors and a cycle of failed renegotiation meetings with UFC president Dana White. Scott Coker explained that a deal with Henderson wasn’t given serious consideration from either party until a week ago. “We’ve been going back and forth since mid-to-late-October. We met in Chicago and had a good conversation but that was more just getting to know you, not anything real specific. Things got serious just about four or five days ago. His agent said he wanted to do a deal with Strikeforce and I said, ‘Let’s do it then.'”
Now that the deal is finalized, Dan Henderson will more than likely debut for the organization in the second quarter of next year to avoid competing with the Olympics which are held in February. His first fight could have happened beforehand if Strikeforce’s next two events were not already near completion. The timing could be a blessing in disguise since Strikeforce’s next CBS venture will be held in the second quarter, an event that could potentially host both of the company’s gems, Henderson and Fedor Emeliananko. In order for Fedor to compete on the next CBS card, the thumb he injured while fighting Brett Rogers at the last CBS show will have to heal. According to Scott Coker, once Fedor is ready to fight, his next opponent will be either Alistair Overeem or Fabricio Werdum.
The CEO also commented on the healing process of the thumb with a status update: “He’s getting the pin taken out in a couple of weeks, and he’s still training. He can’t spar but he can still do road work and he’s staying in shape, and we’ll see him back either first or second quarter.”
Even though Henderson and Fedor wouldn’t be fighting each other, a future bout isn’t completely out of the question according to Coker. “Fedor’s a pretty big guy. I’m sure Dan wants to challenge himself, but that’s a pretty big move up in weight class.”
Being successful in different weight-classes isn’t something foreign to Henderson, who was the first man to hold two belts in two different divisions in a major MMA organization. He accomplished this unique accolade by defeating Wanderlei Silva for the middleweight title at Pride 33, where the Strikeforce CEO was in attendance.
“Yeah, I remember watching him knock out Wanderlei Silva to win his second title in Pride. That was one of the most exciting fights I’ve ever seen. Being there in person, it was amazing.”
When asked which division Henderson would start at, Coker answered, “Dan said he’d let me know after Christmas what weight class he wants to start in. He and Gegard is a natural fight and he against Jake Shields for our middleweight title is a fight he would want.” Whether Henderson will debut at middleweight to fight the newly crowned champion Jake Shields or the proclaimed next Fedor, light-heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi, it will be for a title.
Months prior in the UFC, Henderson was on his way to a second title fight with middleweight champion Anderson Silva after dismantling the UK’s Michael Bisping with an explosive and patent over-hand right at UFC 100. After the contender-ship fight, Dan was promised his shot at Anderson. The Bisping fight was Henderson’s last contractual fight which instead of leading to his desired bout with Silva, lead to stalled re-negotiations on a future contract.
It was a process filled with points of disagreement that fueled a public dispute. In recent interviews, Dana White proclaimed that the fighter was asking for a ridiculous amount of money that would have made him one of the highest paid fighters in the organization. A claim that Henderson has denied, saying he was only asking for what he thought he was worth. To add insult to injury, the UFC later banned Henderson’s clothing line, Clinch Gear and went back on their promise to set up a championship fight for the middleweight belt.
The fighter has been quoted saying he, “tries to not take the whole experience personally but feels there was an unnecessary amount of disrespect.” A problem Scott Coker doesn’t foresee him having at his new home at Strikeforce. “The bottom line is that Dan wants to be treated fairly and with respect and we feel the same.”
With occupational respect, comes compensation, an obvious sour note during Henderson’s previous negotiations, but Coker assures that his newest asset is only being trumped on the pay-scale by arguably the greatest heavyweight to ever compete in the sport, Fedor Emeliananko. “Fedor is the highest-paid athlete in Strikeforce. We have two other athletes who are getting paid as much as Dan, but I really can’t say any more than that.”
As Strikeforce’s roster becomes more respectable with each signing, UFC boss Dana White has become more vocal about his criticisms of Strikeforce’s future and their newest athlete. The outspoken White has been recently quoted saying:
“They have too many fighters under contract and not enough events. They can’t keep some of their obligations to fighters already. Either they’re going to start breaching contracts or paying fighters not to fight. It’ll take a lot more than one guy to help them. Their whole business model is f****d. They’re coming after UFC? Yeah, OK.”
When asked during the interview to comment, Coker simply said, “Come on. I don’t even want to respond to that. It doesn’t deserve a response. I’m honored he’s so concerned.”
While not responding to that Dana White quote, he did refute White’s negative assessment of Dan Henderson’s PPV draw by explaining, “All I can say is, how often does a guy like Dan Henderson become available? He’s a main event fighter. Every promotion would like to have Dan Henderson fight in a main event for them. Main event fighters are few and far between, and when you get a guy like Dan, who can contend for titles in two weight classes, it’s a good day for Strikeforce.”