Sean Strickland recently became the new UFC Middleweight Champion, dethroning Israel Adesanya at UFC 293. This monumental victory has not only left the MMA community in awe but has also garnered praise from the legendary Dan Henderson.
Henderson and Strickland are familiar with one another since they formerly trained under the same roof. But as Henderson recounts, the dynamic was bound to shift due to Strickland’s fierce competitiveness in the sparring room.
Henderson recently revealed on The Joe Rogan Experience: “He was at my gym for like three years, kinda had to let him go. He just kinda gets too involved talking s**t about people.”
“I liked him in the gym. I liked him there. He was a great training partner. You need at least one guy in your gym that, that does that and goes hard and makes everybody else go hard when they’re going against him. So I liked it, but [other people didn’t]. He just was too disrespectful to teammates and stuff.”
Henderson may have expelled Strickland from his gym, but he never stopped showing support for him.
“I continued to root for him after he left. I saw immense potential in him. I urged him to transition to the 185-pound category, as he persisted in competing at 170. I told him, ‘Dude, you’d thrive at 185. You’d feel so much better.’ He had this mental hurdle about facing bigger opponents.”
Heeding Henderson’s counsel after a life-altering motorcycle accident in December 2018, Strickland transitioned to the middleweight division. His subsequent journey saw him amass an impressive record of 7-2 before his dominant performance against Adesanya in the title match held in Australia.
The former UFC title contender marveled at Strickland’s display of skill.
Henderson remarked, “I saw parts of it and yeah, he looked great. I thought he would do well against him. I didn’t think he’d do well just standing up with him there. I mean, I thought Adesanya would outpoint him a little bit. But, I thought Sean would take him down and beat the shit at him if he got on top.”
“[Strickland] Doesn’t have like huge power. He’s probably getting better at putting it in better places now, but he’s not a big knockout guy, but he definitely adds them up and really he’s by far one of the biggest pressure fighters that just moves forward all the time.”
Henderson went on to emphasize the added layer of impressiveness considering Strickland’s return from a life-altering accident.
“It’s even more impressive coming back from an accident like he had, too. It just shows what the body can do if you just let it— if you’re just mentally tough enough to push through something.”