Danny Henry has spent two and a half years perfecting his craft in South Africa and after winning two featherweight championships over there, the Higher Level MMA fighter is hoping for a Scottish homecoming this July.
In mid-2015, DNFT new boy Henry was offered an opportunity of a lifetime to compete in South Africa. You see, for Henry, he had just started training under the tutelage of James Doolan and with an unimposing 4-1 record, it was a gamble he was willing to take in search of legitimacy.
After submitting Hanru Botha in under two minutes on his debut, Henry was immediately offered a six-fight deal to sign with African MMA powerhouse Extreme Fighting Championships, in a move which would provide a rather unconventional amount of opportunities for the young Scotsman.
Discussing his South African excursion with MMA Plus, Henry explained how the political climate of the UK MMA scene made it an easy decision to sign with EFC.
“It’s something a bit different, It’s going to help me stick out a bit from the rest of the guys in Scotland,” he said. “It’s hard to get matched in the UK, all the guys at the top don’t want to fight each other, nobody wants to lose because everybody wants to go to the UFC, so you end up fighting these guys who are so much lower in the rankings than you, so that’s lose-lose in my opinion. Going abroad it gives you the opportunity to take on the best of another country.”
A quick progression for Henry up the EFC Featherweight ladder
Succeeding his win over Botha and earning a unanimous decision over Matt Buirski two months later, Henry was awarded a championship match against the promotion’s poster child Boyd Allen.
Allen shared great reverence with the EFC fans, but Henry’s greatest asset was his disregard for this, and when the two fought at EFC 44, he proved his critics wrong, stopping the champion in the fourth round.
With his newfound treasure, Henry would then enter into one of EFC’s most personal feuds against then undefeated Igeu Kabesa.
The Brit entered the bout high on confidence, but it would be a joyless occasion in Johannesburg for him, as the Congolese athlete dominated to snatch the title from the unprepared clutches of the Scotsman.
“It was probably for the best that I lost that fight,” Henry reflected. “He highlighted some stuff in my game which I overestimated and underestimated at the same time. I overestimated my ability to stop him taking me down and I underestimated him and I’ve not made that mistake again. I went in there with the wrong mindset, I’m not going to make excuses, he beat me fair and square and I went in there with the complete wrong tactics.”
Rebounding from the loss to Kebasa
Handing him his first loss in four years, it was a defeat which Henry admitted, haunted him for the longest time following EFC 47. But equally, it offered the Edinburgher a rude awakening, forcing him to up his preparation for their eventual rematch.
Henry informed MMA Plus that the initial plan was for EFC to hotshot the rematch, booking them both on EFC 51 in July 2016 in order to hopefully set up a December redux. Kabesa however, would get injured in the lead up to his fight against Botha, thus changing the promotion’s plans.
Following Kebasa’s return after a nine-month hiatus, Henry was once again overlooked for his merited title rematch in favour of the man he originally beat for the belt, Boyd Allen.
Despite his frustrations, spending a year waiting for his title rematch, things would ultimately turn in Henry’s favour after Allen suffered an injury preparing for the fight. It may have only been three weeks notice, but Henry took his chance to finally settle the score with the man he severely despised.
Stopping his nemesis in the first round, the rematch was a complete antithesis to their first encounter, giving the UK featherweight a sense of finality to his South African journey.
“Going back and getting the win was massive for me because it haunted me that fight, I felt like I’d never been in a fight. My other loss, Michael Doyle, he legitimately beat me, Igeu just ran away from me for five rounds, it was the most frustrating fight ever. I don’t mind getting beat, I’m not scared to lose to someone better but I just didn’t feel like he was better than me and I really didn’t like the kid either. So I was over the moon to go back over and beat him, stop him as well and take his undefeated record.”
Now a two-time EFC featherweight champion, and having fought against the best fighters the promotion has to offer, Henry admitted his affinity to return home, with the aim to get signed by the UFC in time for their July 16 card at The SSE Hydro.
Having cornered Stevie Ray for his fight with Joe Lauzon in Nashville, and introducing himself to matchmaker Sean Shelby, Henry is willing to do whatever it takes to get his deserved spot on their Scottish return show, and after some social media exchanges, he even has an ideal candidate for his homecoming.
“It’s even bigger for me because I’ve not fought in Scotland for over two years now, so to be able to fight and fight on the biggest show on the biggest stage and to be the home fighter would be a massive deal for me. I actually got a tweet off Charles Rosa, if Charles Rosa wants to go, we can go, I’m keen for that, I fancy that match-up, I think that I’d smoke him. I feel like I’ve done everything I can do at my end and hopefully, the call will come.
“What happened was, I was asking anybody for Glasgow because I’m not fussed, any featherweight no problem at all. If everybody wants to jump on Twitter and push for that fight then I’ll jump at it and take his teeth out his head. I don’t give a f**k if it’s fair or not, I’m going to go in there, go after him and give him the hardest 15 minutes he’s probably had in his life, if he manages to stand up for 15 minutes. How ever many thousand Scottish people in Glasgow, I’m not taking a backward step.”
30-year-old Charles Rosa has a 2-3 record inside the WME-IMG owned promotion, but his desire to fight whoever is put in front of him, makes him a stern test for the Scot should the match-up materialise.
Having conquered the South African scene, now is the time for Henry to return to his homeland and begin the defining chapter of his career. Not only is Henry the first ever Scotsman to lift the EFC crown, but in doing so, he has proven that sometimes, a journey down an alternate path can still lead to the ultimate destination.