Sport

Bisping full of admiration for retiring Henderson

UFC President Dana White places the Middleweight Championship of the World belt around Michael Bisping after he beat Dan Henderson
UFC President Dana White places the Middleweight Championship of the World belt around Michael Bisping after he beat Dan Henderson

Michael Bisping spoke of his admiration for the newly-retired Dan Henderson after successfully defending his UFC middleweight title in a back-and-forth encounter at a sold-out Manchester Arena.

Mancunian Bisping, who suffered a second-round knockout to the Californian seven years ago in Las Vegas, was given a huge scare in the first two rounds but dug deep to earn a unanimous decision from the judges - 48-47 48-47 49-46 - in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The result marked Bisping's 20th win - more than any other man in the promotion's history - as the 37-year-old elevated himself to a place among the sport's all-time greats.

Henderson, who has now brought down the curtain on an illustrious mixed-martial arts career, came agonisingly close to capturing an elusive UFC world title, and Bisping paid homage to the American.

"Big respect to Dan Henderson. He's a legend of the sport and I want to say well done to him," Bisping told the press after the fight.

"It's amazing what he's achieved in this sport and to be able to fight at this level and bring it like that at his age, I just have massive respect for him.

"Of course, Dan Henderson hits hard and he opened up a couple of big cuts on my face. But I feel completely fine, I remember everything about the fight.

"The crowd were amazing. I could hear the energy from the fans throughout the entire event. I want to thank them all for showing so much energy, it was incredible. I felt that."

The rivalry between Bisping and Henderson stems back to Ultimate Fighter season nine, in 2009, when they coached Team UK and Team US respectively.

But after closing that chapter of his career, Bisping added: "Now I look forward to the next one.

"I've still got the belt, I'm still the champion and I'm very happy. It was close but it's never easy. If it was easy, everybody would do it. Until the next time. God bless England."

The fight would be the last hurrah for 46-year-old Henderson, who stated prior to the fight that he would retire whatever the result and the two-time Olympic wrestler is pleased with what he has achieved in the sport.

"I feel like I performed well," he said. "I may have gotten a little bit tired, perhaps I could have been a little bit busier throughout.

"It's just unfortunate that the judges didn't see it my way. Overall, I'm very satisfied with what I have achieved in my career. I know I have accomplished a lot."