Posted by Dan Henderson
UFC Middleweight. Former Strikeforce and Pride Fighting Championship champion. 32-14 professional MMA record.
Dan Henderson

I told you about my toughest Pride fight in my last blog. I’ve been fortunate in that my fights have pretty much all been special in some way or other, no matter what the outcome ended up being. One of my favorite fight memories from Pride was actually a loss I took at the hands of a much bigger guy. This post is going to recount the pair of fights that stand out in my mind as favorites.

The second time I fought Wanderlei was a big achievement for me; winning that second Pride belt from him—a belt that he’d held onto for five years—that definitely meant the most to me, as far as achievements and accolades go.

A fight that was more on the fun side for me, was when I fought Big Nog. I’d beaten him once before in Rings, and got to face him again in Pride, where he was the current heavyweight champ at the time.

I think I took that fight on 10 days notice, and weighed in 40 pounds less than him. I felt like I was doing pretty good in there, but he kept trying submissions that I kept getting out of. It was a back-and-forth fight where I was landing some good punches, and he was getting me on the ground, trying to get submissions on me.

At that time, it was a 10-minute first round followed by two 5-minute rounds. That third round, I came out and kind of took a little bit of a break. He got a takedown and went straight to mount. I made another mistake where I gave up another position, which ended up giving him the armbar.

It was a pretty even fight, and when I talked to the judges afterward, they had me winning before he armbarred me. That was 18 minutes into a 20-minute fight.

That was a fun fight for me, simply because I had no pressure. I was fighting the heavyweight champ on 10 days notice, and just wasn’t used to pushing around an extra 40 pounds, so I got a little tired.

When I think back to that era, there are some things I miss. I miss the freedom they presented, because they weren’t overly concerned with the logistics of weight classes so much. That was really nice.

The biggest thing I miss was the actual show that they put on. Both the UFC and Pride put on great fights, but Pride also put on a great show, in general. The pageantry is what you hear everyone talking about, and there’s a reason for that.

That feeling of being involved in an event of epic proportions set it apart from the UFC, and made it the best organization out there, in my opinion. That’s why they would consistently have a minimum of 40,000 fans for all those shows.

The shows were just amazing live. The biggest one they ever had, in conjunction with K-1, had an audience of 91,000+ fans. I’ve got a lot of great memories from that period, but I’ll save the last of them for the next post.