Johny Hendricks is one of the top ranked welterweight fighters in the world, but if he wanted to preview what the effect that a loss on Saturday could do to his career, all he would have to do is tune in to the preliminary fights a few hours before his own bout.
Relegated to the Facebook prelims is a man who Hendricks fought and lost to just a little over 2 years ago, Rick Story.
Back then, both Story and Hendricks were regarded as rising prospects in the welterweight division. Both had 4 consecutive UFC wins against, back then, fighters who were regarded as being middle-of-the-pack fighters in Sadollah, Hazelett, Brenneman, etc.
The two collided, and Story emerged victorious on the night. However, since then, their respective progress within the shark tank of the UFC's WW division has taken completely different paths.
For Hendricks, a loss to Story at the time wasn't too bad. As mentioned, Story was considered a tough, durable competitor, who had a bit of momentum going into the bout. It wasn't as though Story was a bum, or a can; back then, he was regarded as a potential title challenger, and this win just pushed him further up the ladder. Story would then move from 'potential' title contender to 'legitimate' title contender with an upset win against Thiago Alves, back then (and possibly still) a top 10 welterweight.
But just as Story was on the pinnacle of success, perhaps just that one fight from securing a title shot, it happened. Story took a fight against Charlie Brenneman, who stepped up on short notice, and lost. Almost overnight, Story went from being a title contender back to the middle of the pack. His 6 fight win streak, the fact that he had previously beat the former number 1 contender, the fact that he was just possibly 1 more fight away from challenging for the title - all of that just didn't matter anymore.
Almost as crushing was the effect that defeat had on his career to date. A loss to Martin Kampmann, an uninspired win against Brock Jardine, then getting his brains literally squeezed out of his nose by the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu demigod, Demian Maia, has led to Story being put on the undercard of UFC 158, in a fight where he has an incredibly lot to lose, should he lose, and not a lot to gain if he wins. No one talks about Story as a title contender anymore, everybody expects him to beat Mulhern, and if he does:
- 1) It's on the Facebook prelims,
- 2) With all due respect, who is Mulhern anyway?
So although the circumstances are slightly different (Brenneman was never considered a title challenger, or anywhere near), perhaps Johny Hendricks should take note. He has taken a huge risk regarding his status as the number 1 contender in accepting a fight against Condit, who is a dangerous opponent, and he would do well to remember the story of Rick Story:
One loss, and three fights later, he could well see himself fighting on the prelims as a gatekeeper against a newly acquired fighter from another promotion.
As Krusty the Clown once warned:
"One day you're the most important person in the business, the next you're some schmoe working in a shoe factory".