Pride Fighting Championships, the legendary Japanese organization, has been gone for four years.
That won’t stop two of the erstwhile organization’s biggest stars from finally meeting Saturday night in the main event of a Strikeforce card outside Chicago.
While Fedor Emelianenko ruled Pride heavyweights for much of the early 2000s, Dan Henderson was working his way to the welterweight and middleweight titles.
Henderson said he looks forward to stepping in the cage with Emelianenko.
“I don’t think Fedor is just another name,” he said. “It definitely excites me for the opportunity to be able to fight him. Really, I’m ready to go and just waiting to get in there right at this point.”
It might be a good time to fight Emelianenko, 34, who once was seen as invincible with a nearly decade-long winning streak, but has lost back-to-back fights.
Henderson, 40, watched those fights, but knows the losses will mean little once the bell rings.
“Anybody that has their back to the wall and coming off two losses like that is definitely more dangerous, but I think he’s still going to be trying to hit me with the same punches he would have if he would have won his last two fights,” Henderson said.
Emelianenko said he is still the same fighter, regardless of the two losses.
“It hasn’t affected my confidence at all,” he said. “If God has given us a certain path for my life, then I have to go down that path and feel confident about it.”
Emelianenko should have at least a 20-pound weight advantage over Henderson, who said he will only weigh about 206 pounds, the heavyweight minimum.
“It’s tough for me to gain weight. I did plenty of weightlifting for this and plenty of eating, so I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do,” said Henderson, whose light heavyweight title is not at stake. “On that note, I’m not going to feel outmatched or small in there. I’m planning on going out there and not fighting right through the middle of his power and lifting his weight around, but at the same time being able to move him around.”
A welterweight bout between Paul Daley and Tyron Woodley will have major title implications after Nick Diaz chose to vacate his belt to fight for the Ultimate Fighting Championship title. Also, middleweights Tim Kennedy and Robbie Lawler will square off.
The card, which also features a women’s welterweight title bout between Miesha Tate and champion Marloes Coenen, will air tape-delayed on Showtime (Cable 240) at 10 p.m.
■ OVEREEM OUT — Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem has been removed from the organization’s heavyweight tournament and replaced by unbeaten prospect Daniel Cormier.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said it was a case of Showtime wanting to hold the next round on a certain date and Overeem having an injured toe that wouldn’t allow him to compete then.
Daniel Cormier will now take on Antonio Silva on Sept. 10 in Cincinnati. The other semifinal on the card pits Sergei Kharitonov against Josh Barnett.
■ UFC CLEARS BANTAMWEIGHT PICTURE — UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz will defend his belt against Demetrious Johnson in the main event of UFC on Versus 6 on Oct. 1 in Washington, D.C.
The two other fighters who were under consideration for the title shot, Brian Bowles and Urijah Faber, will meet at UFC 139 on Nov. 19 in San Jose, Calif.
The winner of that fight would then likely get the next shot at the title.
■ MARQUARDT SIGNS WITH BAMMA — Nate Marquardt, who was fired by the UFC last month, has signed with the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts, though no fight has been announced.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509.