Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE
MMAmania's Brian Hemminger speaks with top UFC welterweight contender Johny Hendricks about being the number one ranked welterweight contender, St. Pierre being scared of him and why he chose not to sit and wait for his title shot in this exclusive interview.
"Big Rig" scores a pair of incredible first minute knockouts against the likes of Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann sandwiching a decision victory over Josh Koscheck to put him in serious contention for number one contender.
The Team Takedown fighter called out GSP after his last victory, wanting a shot at the welterweight title, but instead, he's finding himself forced to fight one more time while "Rush" defends his belt in a grudge match against rival Nick Diaz, who's coming off a loss and a year-long drug suspension.
Hendricks will be battling Carlos Condit next month (March 16, 2013) in the co-main event of UFC 158, stepping in place of the injured Rory MacDonald and if he doesn't earn a title shot with a victory, perhaps he'll be right about the champion not wanting to fight him.
The former national champion wrestler spoke to MMAmania.com during a recent appearance on The Verbal Submission about being the number one ranked welterweight contender, St. Pierre being scared of him and why he chose not to sit and wait for his title shot in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The "official" UFC rankings debuted and you were number one. What was your reaction when you found out?
Johny Hendricks: You're always excited to see your name up there. You've got to think that I've only been doing this for a short amount of time, and to see your name up there, I know I worked hard for it and what it means more than anything is that I'm almost to my goal. I'm one step from my goal and that is to hopefully get my belt.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Does it bother you that Nick Diaz is getting the shot at the belt despite that fact that you're higher ranked?
Johny Hendricks: I was very, very upset when I first heard about it. Here's the thing. I go to church a lot and I put a lot of stuff into faith. Maybe God was saying, "Maybe you're not ready, the time is not right for you." Who knows, maybe I get to fight him in the United States instead of having to fly to Canada.
Right now, man, realistically, it sucks. It sucks knowing you've done everything you can and you've done everything you're supposed to do and someone takes that away from you. The thing is, I flipped it. I flipped it to where I'm not mad, I'm training harder, I'm training better. It gave me that extra drive. Maybe that's what I needed, to push myself that much harder. I'm there right now training like there's no tomorrow. I've got more fights to get better and train for a five round fight. That's what I'm doing right now. The main focus of my camp is that I get one more fight to get better and improve on skills i need to improve on. It's actually a blessing.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): After your last fight where you knocked out Martin Kampmann so violently, you stated you were going to sit out until you got a title shot. What changed which made you decide not to wait? What was your reasoning for accepting another fight?
Johny Hendricks: My reasoning was, whenever you look at these guys. I wanted to sit out, but after talking to my manager and my coaches, I realized, what if something happens? Say Nick Diaz wins. Now, not only is it five months from there fight to my fight, now we've got to wait another six months for GSP to have a rematch because you know they'll give him a rematch right off the bat. Hell, what if he wins the rematch and they do a third fight? It might be 18 months until I get a shot at the title. Six to eight months isn't that bad, but we know Nick Diaz. He's tough off his back, he's hard to finish and it's a fight where anything can happen. Let's defend that number one spot again and see what happens.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now I don't know if you paid attention to the UFC 158 press conference, but when someone asked Georges St. Pierre why he decided to fight Nick Diaz over you, he said he felt Diaz was the real number one contender because he felt you lost to Josh Koscheck. What is your response to that?
Johny Hendricks: My reaction was like, 'Really?! You're an idiot.' He said that Condit really did beat Nick Diaz, know what I'm saying? He said, 'I'm fighting the true number one contender Carlos Condit,' and now, he's going backtracking and saying, 'Well, I think [Hendricks] lost.' Who cares? You don't get to decide. He's not a judge. He's not a judge. He's a fighter. He's paid to fight and he's paid to fight me. The fact that he was able to ask and get this request [to fight Diaz], the only thing this is, is it gives me more drive. It's not like I didn't have enough but what's gonna happen is, whenever I look across the cage, he's not going to see fear. He's not gonna see anything. All I want to do is I want to fight him. I want to look across and see GSP and that might be something he's not used to. I don't know. I don't know why he didn't take the fight but I guess I wouldn't want to fight me as well.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Some fans think GSP is ducking you by taking the fight against Diaz instead, which is believed to be an easier fight. Would you go as far as to say that?
Johny Hendricks: I've been saying even more that he might be scared. I do not know why he didn't take the fight. All I know is he just proved what I thought. I am the number one contender. GSP should be fighting me and no one else. Why he didn't, only he knows and his camp knows. I'm a strong wrestler and I haven't had to prove it. I fought Josh Koscheck and the only time I got taken down was when I threw a knee. It was a mental mistake on my part and Josh Koscheck capitalized on it.
Wrestling is GSP's bread and butter. We know what's gonna happen when GSP fights. He's gonna touch gloves, he's gonna dance around, throw some punches but we know his end goal is to take you down and grind you out and have it be a five round decision. We know this. It's been proven for the last four years. With me, you don't know what I'm gonna do. I don't even know what I'm going to do. I don't even know if I'm gonna win. The only thing that you know is gonna happen in my mind is this, I know I'm gonna get in that Octagon, I'm gonna look across the cage, I'll see my opponent and the ref is gonna say "fight." The thrill of not knowing, that's what I enjoy about it and that might scare him. I don't know.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Have you been told that if there's an injury in the main event, you could be plugged in to fight for the title. Nick Diaz isn't exactly the most reliable guy. This has happened to him before.
Johny Hendricks: Yeah, I don't know. My coaches might know, but as of right now, I'm training for both guys. In my mind, that's what I'm thinking too. Dana said that no matter what, GSP is defending the belt that night so there is always that hope that he might do something and I might get my title shot, but I'm not banking on that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've had several fantastic flash knockouts recently. If you had your way, would you like to have a big knockout in the opening seconds or would you prefer to have the fight go two rounds or even three to showcase what you've been working on?
Johny Hendricks: I'd love to fight three rounds. I love fighting. The worst part of my life is that Sunday when I wake up and I know my training's done. The big bonus is getting to spend time at home with my family, so it's a good and bad. I love spending time with my family but then I don't have anybody to look forward to fighting. When the fight ends early, it sucks for me. I like being in combat. Whenever I'm out there, I want it to last longer. I let my body take over and if I see the opening to knock them out, I'm gonna take it. I'm not gonna just pass it up. I just want to put on a show for the fans.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've been trying to get the GSP fight for a while now. You called him out after knocking out Kampmann and that didn't pan out. What will you do if you go out there and get a quick knockout and instead of giving you a title shot, GSP goes and fights Anderson Silva or something?
Johny Hendricks: If I ever saw him, I'd probably slap him. Like, really? If that happens, then everything that we believed is true. Everything we've talked about, everything all the fans are trying to figure out, we know it's true. Here's what I really believe. He wants to finish on top. What if he retires after this fight? That's something I've thought about too. What if he retires, then comes back out of it and fights Anderson Silva. That sucks. You always want to retire when you're on top and not when you're on your way out.
If that happens, I don't care. I don't care about GSP. I only care about the belt. The only reason I'm calling GSP out and wanting to fight him is because he has the belt. If anyone else had the belt at 170, I'd call them out. No one remembers second place. They remember who was the champion and that's what I'm trying to strive for.