BURBANK — With a cinder block for a right hand, a laundry list of memorable victories, an easy grin and an honest, down-to-earth personality, Dan Henderson has built a lofty fan base in mixed martial arts and a legendary resume.
Next up for "Hendo" is a main event bout against former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titlist "Suga" Rashad Evans at UFC 161: Evans vs. Henderson on June 15 at Winnipeg, Manitoba.
As part of a West Coast media trip, Henderson stopped by Morton's The Steakhouse in Burbank on Thursday afternoon.
As has become accustomed for the 42-year-old Henderson in the lead-up to his latest fights, he fielded myriad questions about just how much longer his fighting days will last.
"As I get older, the challenge gets tougher, but it also gets easier because I'm more experienced," said Henderson, who estimated that he would likely fight another two years or four or five more fights. "I'm still capable of beating people up and I get paid to do what I like."
In Evans, the UFC's sixth-ranked light heavyweight, No. 3 Henderson faces his 10th former UFC champion, having defeated a half-dozen former titlists. Likely his biggest career highlights have come with knockout upsets over heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko in 2011 and light heavyweight Wanderlei Silva in 2007. The defeat of Silva won Henderson the PRIDE middleweight championship, while he simultaneously held the organization's welterweight strap. To this day, he's the only fighter in MMA history to hold two major titles in different weight classes concurrently.
"I didn't think it was a big deal at the time," said Henderson of the historic accolade. "It's definitely something people still talk about."
However, it is Henderson's knockout win over Michael Bisping, seen by many fight fans as a brash, outspoken villain, that "Hendo" said is easily the win he still hears the most about from fans.
"As far as hearing about it every day [it's the biggest highlight]," Henderson said. "The usual [comment] is thanks for doing that."
Boasting a 29-9 record in MMA, Henderson is a two-time former Olympian in Greco-Roman wrestling. Despite his wrestling pedigree, Henderson has grabbed the majority of his highlights with knockouts, having won 13 fights in that manner, with four of his last five victories coming via KO. Facing another former wrestler with good power in Evans (17-3-1), Henderson wouldn't mind taking the fight to the ground, though.
"I'd like to put him on his back and beat him up there, too," Henderson said. "He's not on his back much, I'd like to put him there."
Conversely, Henderson believes Evans' takedowns and subsequent top game are what he must worry the most about.
"[Him] catching me to take me down and humping me to death," Henderson said, "that's the biggest [concern]."
On Tuesday, though, Henderson fielded as many, if not more, questions about his previous fight and possible future fights after Evans.
"I'm used to it," sand Henderson when asked if it could be distracting. "It's not tough to focus on who I'm fighting next."
Henderson was originally scheduled to fight for the light heavyweight crown against champion Jon Jones in September of 2012, but a knee injury forced him to pull out. He then fought former champion Lyoto Machida on Feb. 23, 2013, losing a largely lackluster fight by split decision.
"I typically don't have a problem with having exciting fights except for that one," Henderson said.
Faced with Machida's elusive, or running style, depending on your viewpoint, there was little action in the bout and plenty of frustration for Henderson that still lingers.
"I don't even consider it a fight. ... Nothing happened," Henderson said. "I expected Machida to run. ... It was a lot more than I planned."
Evans, also coming off a lackluster decision loss to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, has a stick-and-move style that has made for exciting fights and some not so much. Henderson believes their bout, no matter what, will still be better than their last bouts.
"Neither one of them wanted to commit," said Henderson of the Evans-Nogueira bout. "I'm not gonna have that problem.
"Rashad will stand there and throw some punches and not move back the whole time."
And of course, should Henderson emerge victorious, a potential future bout with Jones is still something he's vying for.
"Regardless of whether Jon has the belt or not, it'd be fun just to test myself," Henderson said.
In the end, testing himself more than anything is what still pushes Henderson, having won multiple titles and defeated a who's who of fighters, to keep fighting when he's already accomplished a Hall of Fame-worthy career.
"I love the sport, but it's just the challenge of it," Henderson said. "Testing myself."
And the next test is Evans on June 15.
For more on UFC 161, visit http://www.ufc.com.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun