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

One of the things I get asked about the most, is what my time with Pride FC was like. That was a special time in MMA history, and Pride upstaged the “other guys” on a regular basis. It’s a shame they had a feud going on with K1, because it ultimately resulted in the demise of a truly great organization

I had an amazing time competing under the Pride banner, and carry with me some memories that just can’t ever be duplicated. I’ve compiled a list of some specific topics that I’m most frequently asked to talk about for my next couple blogs. The first of those, is what stands out in my mind as the most difficult fight of my Pride days.

My toughest fight in Pride was probably my first fight against Wanderlei. I was supposed to fight Vitor, but he broke his hand or something, so they changed my opponent to Wanderlei.

I had no idea who the hell Wanderlei was. I was just wrestling at the time, and I was off on some tournament in France. I got sick with strep throat while I was there, and I really only had about 10 days of training for that fight. I wasn’t in the best condition, and I didn’t know anything at all about Wanderlei.

I remember showing up for fight week in Japan, and seeing him walk through the cafeteria—I think he had a Mohawk type thing at the time—tattoos on his head…he was pretty intimidating looking. I thought to myself, ‘Oh shit, I gotta fight that guy?’ It wasn’t so much fear or nervousness as it was that he was just such an unknown factor to me.

When the fight went down, he had tagged me with a couple good ones early on. At the time, knees to an opponent while face down (I think I was shooting a leg attack on him) were illegal. He got me with a pretty hard knee like that, and the ref and people around me were saying that if I didn’t continue, that I would forfeit and lose the fight, and this came after he’d just kneed me illegally in the head.

I wasn’t seeing quite straight out of one of my eyes at the time, and since I’m not really the guy that takes the easy way out, I continued. I can’t really remember if it was before or after the knee, but I hit him hard and dropped him. His eye was cut pretty bad, but it was so swollen that the swelling had actually stopped the bleeding. His eye had completely swollen shut. They just don’t stop fights over there. If it had been over here, it would’ve definitely been stopped, 100%.

They kept the fight going, but I was so out of shape, I really didn’t finish well. It was a two round fight, 10 minutes per round. Being out of shape and going two 10-minute rounds certainly wasn’t much fun, and he ended up winning by decision.