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

Now that this fight with Bisping has actually become a reality, the hard part starts—the training. Getting in the cage is the reward at the end of a long camp, and I’m pretty sure just about any fighter would agree that the fight itself is actually kind of a relief. After weeks of two-a-days and three-a-days, letting the leather fly with bad intentions is exactly how you bring that chapter to an end in a satisfactory way.

Some might think that I’ve lost my edge, but that’s not really the case. I feel like I’ve had a run of bad luck due to a couple factors. Fights got stopped a little sooner than I would have normally expected, leaving some serious scars on my record. I’ve been in some wars where I’ve been hurt and they let the fight continue, which resulted in me coming back to win. I feel like I wasn’t given those opportunities in some of my later fights, for whatever reason. Maybe it was the referees trying to protect the old man.

That bad luck didn’t stop at the referees, either. The judging saw me with a couple real close decisions that didn’t go my way and between them, it added up to some losses over the last few years that might have made me look like I was in a slump. I know deep down that I’m still there and still able to beat the top guys. On any given night, anything can happen, and on any given night, I can beat anybody in the world.

When I was supposed to face Jon Jones, I hurt my knee and was forced out of the fight. It kind of set me back farther than I would have liked. The recovery of my knee took a while, and when I came back, I had some other minor injuries that affected me in my fight with Machida.

Now, I train smarter, because 45-year-old me can’t take the same chances as 25-year-old me. I make sure that my conditioning is on point, because with my experience in the sport, the most important thing I need to focus on is my conditioning. As I’ve gotten older, it’s been one of the tougher things to keep where it needs to be.

I try to conserve as much energy as I can. I don’t do as much drilling as I used to and I take better care of myself during sparring. Overall, I’d say I just manage my training more efficiently.

With the new weight cutting rules, I see a lot of fighters struggling with their cuts, and plenty of people have always assumed that I have a hard time making weight as I’ve gotten older. It has been a little tougher over the last few years, but honestly, it’s not that bad. I’m not that big of a guy to start with; I’m smaller than some of the 170-pounders that are out there fighting. If I’m fat and happy, I walk at about 200, so cutting 15 pounds is not a problem for me at all.

As far as recovery options for training camps, I’ve seen and tried a lot of stuff, including the cutting edge treatments they’ve got out now. I’ve floated in the saltwater tanks, done the ice baths and tried cryotherapy. I think I’d like to try the cryotherapy a little bit more, but I don’t have one at my gym. My life is pretty crazy with four kids, so it’s kind of tough for me to go out of my way to get those treatment sessions. I do just fine without it, but of the things I’ve checked out, that is the one I’d like to look into and try a little more. Anything that helps you recover faster, even if it’s only a couple percent, is worth doing.

I don’t do yoga, nor do I meditate. I get just as much relaxation on my couch at home. For me, the normal family life provides enough of a healthy distraction to keep me balanced, and works like a form of therapy. I’ve grown accustomed to it over the years, and while I’m sure it’d be great to get a float session in here and there, my family is a great source of comfort and relaxation, so I can’t complain.

If I could give a pro tip to the fighters out there, and this one is for the new guys just getting into the UFC, make sure you’re in a good gym with plenty of training partners where you can learn and get better, and not be used just as a tool for other people’s success. Make sure you can sharpen your skills and grow together along the way.

My tip for the veteran fighter that might be making their last run at career goals, is you’ve got to make sure you’re still learning and evolving along your journey. Train smarter and be aware of your limitations. It’s pretty basic stuff that can be easily applied to fighters at any point in their career.

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