Sean Strickland has a habit of rubbing people the wrong way.
That hasn’t stopped Strickland from experiencing enormous success inside the cage. Strickland has been on a tear the past few years, winning nine of his past 11 fights, a run that culminated in him becoming the UFC middleweight champion at UFC 293 by scoring an impressive upset victory over Israel Adesanya.
MMA legend Dan Henderson recently talked about having previously worked with Strickland at Team Quest and he explained why the future champion ended up parting ways with the gym.
“He was at my gym for, like, three years,” Henderson said on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. “We kind of had to let him go. He just kind of gets too involved talking s*** 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 does that and goes hard and makes everybody else go hard when they’re going against him, so I liked it.”
Strickland is known for having an unfiltered personality, which has led to him making frequent ignorant and offensive comments in interviews and social media, comments that have also boosted his popularity as he’s risen to the top of his division. He hasn’t shied away from talking in the cage either, even while outworking the likes of Adesanya, Nassourdine Imavov, Jack Hermansson, and others.
Current training partners like Chris Curtis have noted that Strickland has the same demeanor in training, which didn’t sit well with Henderson and his team in the past.
“He just was too disrespectful to teammates and stuff,” Henderson said. “I always rooted for him when he left, it wasn’t like I was like, ‘I hope that guy…’—No, I always rooted for him. I thought he had a ton of potential. I was yelling at him to go up a weight class because he was always trying to make 170. I was like, ‘Dude, you need to go 185. You’ll feel a lot better, you’ll be fine competing up there.’ But everybody is always mentally afraid of being against bigger guys.”
Henderson knows all about making the right decisions when it comes to weight classes. The 53-year-old won titles with Pride Fighting Championship at 185 and 205 pounds in his prime and continued to be a top contender in those divisions until his retirement in 2016.
Whatever qualms Henderson may have had with Strickland’s gym decorum, there was no denying that he always had the tools to excel in competition. Henderson praised Strickland’s grappling and striking defense, while adding that his most potent weapon is his ability to push the pace at a level that few can match.
“His natural ability is his cardio,” Henderson said. “He knows how to fight well too, but naturally he just has cardio for days.”