Johny Hendricks is out to prove that he deserves another shot at UFC gold. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Even with a few recent blemishes, Johny Hendricks’ welterweight resume remains as impressive as any in the UFC.
Hendricks would like to point out that those defeats -- split-decision setbacks to then-champion Georges St. Pierre and reigning titlist Robbie Lawler -- are far from your run-of-the-mill losses. Many observers thought Hendricks bested St. Pierre at UFC 167, and even though “Bigg Rigg” didn’t get the nod, St. Pierre hasn’t come back to MMA since.
Lawler edged Hendricks in their rematch at UFC 181, nine months after the heavy-handed Texan took a slightly more convincing unanimous verdict over “Ruthless” at UFC 171.
“Did you know that I’m the only one that’s ever lost a split decision for a title?” Hendricks inquired during a recent appearance on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show.
During that same period, the Team Takedown representative has also dispatched top 10 fixtures Carlos Condit, Matt Brown and, of course, Lawler. Considering the close nature of their previous two meetings, it almost seemed to be a given that Hendricks and Lawler would be booked for a rubber match sometime later this year.
Instead, it was Condit tabbed to face Lawler at UFC 193 on Nov. 15. Hendricks, meanwhile, will square off with fellow wrestler Tyron Woodley on the main draw at UFC 192. The ex-170-pound champ has given up on trying to understand the matchmaking process at this point.
“It’s not the first time I’ve been passed up. It’s not the first time I should’ve been fighting somebody, and it doesn’t happen. You take it on the chin. You laugh about it. You say, ‘Whatever.’ You go out there and you beat somebody else,” Hendricks said. “I keep telling everybody I’m gonna start doing it the ‘Cowboy’ way, like Donald Cerrone, and just beat everybody and go, ‘There is no other No. 1 contender except for me.’ If that’s what I have to do that’s what I have to do.”
With the way the events and matchups align, it would seem logical that the Hendricks-Woodley winner would be next in line for a title shot, but Hendricks isn’t taking anything for granted at this point. Again, if he follows the trail blazed by Cerrone, who has won eight fights since November 2013, everything will take care of itself.
“You know what, I don’t even know [if it’s a title eliminator]. I don’t even care anymore. It is what it is,” he said. “I’m just gonna fight. I’ve sort of taken the Donald Cerrobne sort of attitude. I’m gonna fight and I’m gonna fight and sooner or later I’m gonna get back to where I want to be.”
Much of Hendricks’ attitude could stem from the fact that the UFC rewarded Condit, who defeated Thiago Alves in May after more than a year layoff due to knee surgery, with the next crack at Lawler. While the promotion may be more interested in new matchups than a trilogy at this point, Hendricks still believes his track record speaks for itself.
“Don’t get me wrong, I say this a lot: You’re only as good as your last fight,” Hendricks said. “The only thing is, my last five or six fights have all been top 5 or better. Carlos Condit came off of a year and he fights No. 12 [in the UFC.com rankings]. Thiago Alves is a tough dude, he is, but he’s not a top 5 dude.”
Like Hendricks, Woodley owns a win over Condit. In fact, he was the one who put Condit temporarily out of commission. It’s a very dangerous opponent for Hendricks, who is not far removed from being atop the division. A setback at UFC 192 could make his road to the title that much more arduous.
“He’s ranked No. 3 for a reason. He’s got a heavy right hand. He’s beaten some very good guys. Whenever you throw a guy out there that can take you down, that’s where things start to get interesting. Because not only can he knock you out, but he can also take you down,” Hendricks said.
“That’s where I’ve been working on my skills and getting that power and all these things back. People [are going] start to relearn why they are scared of my hands. My combinations, my kicks, everything’s looking good. But we focused so much on that, it’s time to focus back on power -- hitting somebody and seeing if they can withstand that punch. That’s the threat that he also has. Whenever you’re going against someone like that you’ve got to know: hit them and capitalize.”
While Hendricks appears more than ready to adopt the “Cowboy” way, it’s unlikely that he’ll be far from another championship fight if he performs well against Woodley. Win in October, and there will be no need for a lengthy winning streak.
“You try to wrap your head around everybody’s way of thinking, but you can’t sometimes,” Hendricks said. “Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back and say, ‘It didn’t work out the way I wanted it.’
“Guess what? I can go back in there, get another win. I can showcase why I’m No. 1, and why they shouldn't have given a No. 4 ranked [fighter a title shot] over a No. 1 ranked.”