GTR Archives 2000-2020











Global Training Report


Dan Henderson

From Gong Kakutogi

No. 110

June 6, 2001

Text by Koji Shigeta

Translated (into Japanese) by Shu Inagaki

Translated (back into English) by Roberto Pedreira

 "I'm going to retire after one and a half years. Before that, I want Sakuraba, and a rematch with Silva".

                  ----Dan Henderson


Q: Congratulations for your victory over Renzo. It must have been a very satisfying victory.

Dan: Thanks. For me, I can say that my most satisfying victory was winning the KOK [King of Kings] tournament,  but being able to defeat Renzo by KO made me happy too. 

Q: What was the cause of your victory?

Dan: I think it's because everything went well according to my strategy. I always go into my fights with a strategy but things usually don't go the way I plan them. But this time my strategy worked, so I feel good about that. (laughs). This time I stayed on stand up, and tried not to get drawn to the ground. I was confident that I could out punch Renzo, and I didn't believe he could take me down. I didn't give him a chance for a take down and my objective was to wait and counter punch. And it worked. The last thing that happened wasn't my what I planned to do, but when he tried to tackle me, I landed a good shot. 

Q: You were aiming at sprawling and landing a knee, and pushing Renzo off when he wanted to do take the guard position. This was what you planned, wasn't it?

Dan: That's right. I know how jiu-jitsu fighters like to fight, so I'm careful about being drawn into their game.

Q: The new rules permit you to sprawl to avoid the tackle and then put the knee in. This is advantageous for you isn't it?

Dan: I think the new rules are advantageous for us wrestlers. Sprawling is our specialty. From this position, landing knees is easy. So I used them. Coleman too, and got a KO [over Alan Goes]. Silva too. When I heard about the rule change, I was very much surprised. 

Q: Surprised?

Dan: Before the Sakuraba vs. Silva fight, I never thought the rules would be changed like this. Because the change provided a clear advantage to Silva. Well, since the rules are changed, we will fight according to them.

Q: Just after the fight with Renzo, was it because of the rule change that you predicted confidently that Silva would beat Sakuraba?

Dan: No way. I wasn't thinking about the rule change at that time. I was anticipating Silva to win the fight.  [Dan vs. Renzo took place before Vanderlie vs. Sak] Silva is aggressive [dangerous and violent] and has a big punch. Sakuraba moves well but he isn't aggressive and he is punching with his open hand and not contacting with his knuckles so he can't inflict big damage.

Q: I see what you mean.

Dan: Moreover, Silva is the kind of fighter who has the stamina to fight all out for the whole 20 minutes. So, I was anticipating that Silva would probably win. Adding to that the fact that the rules were changed I thought he would win by strikes. But I think that if the rules weren't changed, Sakuraba would have stayed in there longer. The new rules allowed Silva to use his knees and kicks more effectively, you know. For Sakuraba, Silva's style is the most difficult to solve. 

Q: Analytically, how do you find Sakuraba?

Dan: I think he is a marvelous fighter. I haven't seen many of his fights, but he can strike, and his submissions are great. Furthermore, he is versatile so it is more difficult  to beat him than it would be if he were more of a one dimensional fighter. But even that kind of fighter sometimes loses the way he did in the fight with Silva. It is impossible to know what will happen in a fight.  In that fight, too, it was Sakuraba who landed a good shot first. It could have happened that everything was finished with that one shot. Besides, Sakuraba fought more aggressively in his fight with Vitor, compared to his fight with Silva. A result also depends on the condition he is in then. and without question, he is a tough and strong fighter.

Q: By the way, you said after the fight that you were planning to retire after 4 or 5 more fights.

Dan: Being a wrestler, and living a life such that you always have to pay attention to staying in fighting condition is stressful, you know. In my post retirement phase, I plan to manage a construction company, so I am thinking about hanging up the gloves after about 4 or 5 more fights, within the next one and a half years. So I want to fight strong fighters who I haven't fought yet, and of course, Sakuraba. 

Q: Do you think the new rules have improved your chances of vanquishing Sakuraba?

Dan: With or without the new rules, I would vanquish Sakuraba for sure. 

Q: Whooo! You certainly sound confident.

Dan: When I fight,  I have to believe completely that I can win. If the fight with Sakuraba happens, I will go into it with the firm intention of winning. That's what I meant. 

Q: Would you fight Sakuraba standing up, the way you did against Renzo?

Dan: Either stand up or on the ground is ok with me. If it is decided, I will watch the videos of all of his fights and get into the fight with the correct "game plan." You will see then what my strategy is. (laugh).

Q: We really want to see you tangle with Silva again. Your loss seemed to have some connection to the illegal knees [administered by Silva] that inflicted fatal damage. 

Dan:  For sure, I got badly damaged from that knees. [wry smile]. At the time, I was only on my guard against punches. If knees had been permitted by the rules, I would have prepared for knees too. Any way I lost by knees, so it might be a good idea to do a rematch under the new rules. I want a rematch under the new rules. Because I have confidence that I can't lose even if it becomes a slugfest. [uchiatte mo makenai jishin ga aru kara.]  

Q: You are not at all afraid of punches, and you excel in attacking with strikes. How did you polish your striking technique?

Dan: Sparring. In fact,  when I began learning from a boxing coach about five years ago, I went in UFC immediately after doing only technique training (laugh). I was less able to cope with punches than I thought. After that, every chance I had, I sparred with boxers and MMA fighters who were good at striking. In particularly, I sparred a lot with Randy Couture and both of our technical skills improved a lot. Now I'm in California but Randy comes down from Oregon. And I'm doing sparring with Tito Ortiz and Fabiano Iha too. 

Q: By the way, the competition to be selected as one of the competitors in the Sydney Olympics turned out disappointingly, didn't it?

Dan: [Regrettably] I lost in the final round in the All America championship . If I win, I am seeded and fight with an athlete who comes up from a preliminary match. If I win that fight, I am able to become the representative. But I was the second rank, so I had to fight from a preliminary match. Despite  beating the 1999 World Champion from Cuba in Pan-am, I lost to the athlete in a preliminary match who always loses to me. The level of athletes was very close, and also the result was changed depending on the conditions we were in then. There was nothing I could do about it. But, I was in the Olympics two times and I was became a World Champion. I didn't get an Olympic medal but I am satisfied with my career as a wrestler. This year  there will be the World Championship in New York, so I plan to take part in the All America Championship in April. Just for my own pleasure, you know.

Q: Well, Japanese amateur wrestlers will enter Abu Dhabi this year. Did you hear about it?

Dan:  Ahh, I heard that.

Q: Do you think the experience in Abu Dhabi will have a good influence on the amateur wrestling?

Dan: No, I don't think so. If you want to be a better wrestler, then wrestle!  But the take-down skills of wrestler are superior, so they might be able to win in Abu Dhabi by taking the man down and holding on.

Q: Concerning that,  in America are you known as an Olympic wrestler, or as a MMA fighter? 

Dan:  More than the fact that I appeared in two Olympics, I hear people say "Oh, that's the guy in the UFC".  I wish it were the other way around [laugh].  In Japan, everyone knows Sakuraba. But in America, even the UFC fighters are in far from that situation.. I want to change the situation we are in now, and I think it under way.

Q: Well, any message for the fans?

Dan: I like the Japanese fans, because they understand the techniques. So I think I want to fight in Japan even after finishing with the contract with Pride (one more fight left). But the tournament [format] is too hard. Count me out.


 (c) 2001, GTR, all rights reserved.