TOP STORY: DAN HENDERSON CONFIRMS IT’S OVER AFTER THIS
UFC 204 features a rematch between Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping and MMA legend Dan Henderson in what will officially be Henderson’s final bout in the Octagon.
“I’ve said that win or lose, this is my last fight,” Henderson said at the UFC 204 press conference. “I have no desire to go on after that.” His comments come just a week after celebrating his 46th birthday, making him among the oldest fighters to have ever competed in the UFC.
The comments come as no surprise to many UFC fans as Henderson has suffered multiple vicious knockouts in his last few fights and has gone an abysmal 3-6 since 2013. He admitted that he felt he could continue on from a physical standpoint, but began to question his motivation. “It does tax on you mentally as I’ve gotten older and it’s been tougher to get through training camp as healthy as I want and in as good shape as I want,” he said.
Henderson also expressed his desire to spend more time with his family and that it had a major impact on his decision to walk away. “Honestly, it’s time,” he said. “I’d like to spend more time with my family, more time with my kids, and not miss as much because I have to train or because I’m off fighting somewhere.”
Though this will be his last contest in the Octagon, Henderson made clear his intentions for the fight and reminded everyone that there is no love lost between him and Bisping. “I’m gonna make sure I give everything I have and make sure I have no regrets,” he said. “That’s all I can do in life and in this sport. I’m gonna take full advantage of this opportunity and put him on his ass again.”
Cervantes Analysis: Henderson pioneered the sport with his elite wrestling and his thunderous right hand that has leveled so many opponents including the one he will face again in just one month. With that being said, his retirement is long overdue. I say this as a huge fan of Dan Henderson and as someone who has enjoyed watching him fight in Pride, Strikeforce, and the UFC. It has been difficult to watch him lose the way he has in the last few years and even more difficult trying to understand why he has wanted to continue on. In a mixed martial arts career that has spanned nearly 20 years, he has finally admitted that it is his time to walk away and he does this on the precipice of taking with him a title he has always coveted. Fans will always remember him for his legendary wars over the years.
Fighter Pay Woes
Making headline news this week has been the rumored departure of longtime UFC matchmaker Joe Silva. As has been reported my multiple outlets, Silva is leaving the UFC largely in part to the $4 billion sale of the company to new leaders. As a result of the sale, Silva can comfortably retire being one of the longest tenured employees dating back to the humble beginnings of the sport. This comes at a time when fighter pay has become a chief complaint amongst UFC fighters who feel they are not being paid what they are worth.
Unlike Joe Silva, the fighters under contract have not and will not be receiving any form of monetary benefit from the sale. The news of Silva’s departure due to his financial security by way of the sale may irk some fighters who have felt cheated since the inception of the Reebok deal and the notorious low pay the UFC has given over the years.
When we look at just how much has been paid out to Nate Diaz, Conor McGregor, and Brock Lesnar in the last few months we see that the UFC definitely has the money to pay its fighters much more than it has but has chosen not to. Whereas low pay may have been understandable when the sport was first beginning, there is no merit to the UFC’s decision to continue to pay extremely low purses when it is being run on a major television network, PPV sales are stable (and in some cases breaking records within a year), and the addition of UFC Fight Pass, all bringing in substantial revenue. Exacerbating the issue, as I mentioned earlier, is the fact that fighters have been forced to relinquish outside sponsors making it exceedingly difficult to make ends meet for some of the lowest earning fighters.
This revelation will undoubtedly be a point of contention going forward between the fighters and the new management and the fighters can only hope that this administration is more open to negotiation than the old regime.
EXODUS OF THE ELITE, FIGHT PAY WOES CONTINUE
With Rory MacDonald leaving the UFC for Bellator, he joins the ever growing list of fighters who are checking out the competition in search of better terms and conditions.
The UFC has long proclaimed itself the premiere fighting organization in the world and that it features the best fighters in the world, but that claim may be diminishing with fighters fleeing to the rising Bellator. In the last year, we have seen the likes of Josh Thompson, Ben Henderson, Phil Davis, Matt Mitrione, and the aforementioned Rory MacDonald all leave to pursue greater economic benefit and opportunities to climb the ladder.
Bellator, unlike the UFC, does not restrict fighters from having outside sponsors, does not enforce a universal dress code, and seems to pay fighters according to what the fighters feel is fair. The UFC likes to tout its PPV points system as being the game changer and the greatest difference between it and Bellator. While it is true that Bellator cannot match the UFC in PPV buys, those points fluctuate based on how many sales a PPV does, and only the most popular fighters at the top of the cards are entitled to that money.
This ties in directly to the conversation about the sale of the UFC. With fighters trying hard to unionize and to make the most of the short time they have in this line of work, it would be in the interest of the UFC to negotiate higher salaries for all fighters and to truly be able to tout its reputation as the premiere fight organization by paying premiere money.
(MMATorch’s Daily News Digest features the top story of the day with added analysis, plus smaller tidbits in the News Notes section. Today’s Friday edition is by MMATorch contributor Jonathan Cervantes.)