For the last year, Johny Hendricks has been asked the same question.
"Will George St. Pierre be next for you?"
The current top welterweight contender had to deal with the questions ever since he flattened then-number two ranked Jon Fitch at UFC 141 in just 12 seconds.
Since then, he's beat a trio of fellow top 10 170-pounders Josh Koscheck, Martin Kampmann and former interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit, but St. Pierre has been hovering over every fight, a shadow that just won't go away.
Now, with his claim as the top contender more established than perhaps any title challenger in recent memory, Hendricks is hoping he can finally focus on the task at hand. No distractions. It's St. Pierre for real this time. All he has to do is wait for the champion to come out of hiding and give him the fight.
"Bigg Rigg" spoke to MMAmania.com about working with Mike Tyson, learning from past mistakes and potential surprises he can bring to the table against GSP in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Johny Hendricks: Yeah, that was pretty amazing. He gave me a couple of good tips to improve myself and I've definitely been working on 'em. I'm pretty excited to see how it works out. I'm feeling more comfortable.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): From watching the video, it looked like he was teaching you a few things like lateral movement in the pocket. What was something you really took away from your meeting?
Johny Hendricks: One of the things was how to cut corners, which is something I've already been working on. The guys at the gym has been trying to get me to do it for a while but when someone like Mike Tyson tells me to work on it too, you don' trealize how important it is until you hear it from a world champion like him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Any plans to work together again?
Johny Hendricks: Well when we left, we spoke about it and I'd love to work with him again, but we'll see. It depends if our schedules align. I'd certainly like to do it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Okay, let's talk Georges St. Pierre. He defended his title against Nick Diaz two and a half months ago and a bout agreement hasn't been sent out for you. Do you have any theories for this? What's the hold-up?
Johny Hendricks: That I do not know. I don't know what the theory is. I don't know what he's thinking. I'm just waiting on him. He's the one that has to say "yes, this is the day," or whatever. He has to say "yes" is what I've heard and understood so far. I just have to wait and see what happens. I'm ready, though, and I've been ready for a while now. He wasn't injured as far as I know. I wish I knew what the hold-up was.
Johny Hendricks: I don't know what he's doing. I'm pretty sure he's not taking it easy if he's injured. I don't want him to hurt anything else and prolong this any more. I'd like to fight by the end of the year. I think we're going to, I just don't know when.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): St. Pierre's last four title defenses have all taken place in his native Canada. Do you think that's fair?
Johny Hendricks: It's cool in a sense that hopefully one day I can do the same thing, but then again, you've got to do what's best for business and that's what it boils down to. I don't know what the qualifications are to judge, but the main part is I don't care where I fight. I don't care when as long as it's this year. That's the main concern of mine, that I'm preparing to fight this year with Georges St. Pierre.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Okay, back to you. You've mentioned recently that you're going 100 percent in this next training camp instead of your usual 80 percent. Why change now, especially after beating four straight top 10 opponents?
Johny Hendricks: What we're doing is we're going harder but we're also doing it where we're keeping the same training but also adding a little more stuff that can benefit us. We were hoping to implement it for my last fight but didn't get a chance to because of everything switching up so much. A reason I want to add some more stuff is I need to do more because it's a title fight. I know this so I have to adjust accordingly.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With your last fight against Carlos Condit being such a grueling three round affair, do you feel ready for a five round fight against St. Pierre yet?
Johny Hendricks: Oh yeah, Oh yeah. I was good with that last fight too. The only thing is I think what I've got to do is if I take someone down and use that kind of energy, I need to keep them down longer. That's something I didn't do with Carlos and that's one thing I have to change. Also, this fight will be different because everything won't be based around GSP. All my last fights, the whole lead-up was about GSP and sometimes that's harder to adjust to. It plays mental games on you. I'm trying to block everything out and not focusing on just one person. I was training for Jake Ellenberger then I end up fighting Carlos Condit. Now, I'm actually training for one guy and nothing else. It's nice.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What type of advantage do you think you'll have, not having the distraction of the title or other opponents as you prepare for this bout?
Johny Hendricks: It's huge. I don't have to worry about anybody else. My last couple fights, you don't know what's gonna happen so I was training for Jake Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit, even GSP in case Diaz flaked out or something. We went into that camp thinking maybe Carlos Condit would get injured because he's had a few knee issues in the past and he might get hurt. We were thinking we could fight any range of guys but this time, we know it'll be one specific person. We get to dedicate all three months to one person instead of three people so that ability to focus is huge.
Johny Hendricks: I think he might not be looking at me in the best light. I do have tendencies but what's something to be careful about those tendencies is they might lay you out for the night. You might wake up not knowing what happened and having that as my tendencies, it's easy to plan for but harder to stop. I'm gonna hit you once, I might hit you 20 times or 50 times but all it takes is one good shot from me and that's really nice to know. It's great to have that to rely on. I don't try to, but say I go out there and I'm down four rounds to none and I need a finish. Guess what? I know I can still pull that off. That's the beauty of having that one punch knockout power.
Johny Hendricks: I think I can add a lot more. That's the fun part. I'm constantly adapting. I've added two or three more combos to my arsenal and I'm much more confident throwing more than just my left hand. That's nice. I know I'm fighting GSP and the advantage of not having that bout agreement yet is I'm focusing on GSP but I'm also focusing on myself, working to develop my skills and keep getting better. I've learned a few good things so far that I'm pretty happy with.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've referenced several times that you dream about your fights. What are you dreaming about thus far with GSP?
Johny Hendricks: I've had a couple of dreams about the fight. I don't know what they're about yet. I don't really remember them. I remember that we're fighting and I do remember that, I don't know what happens or what's going on, but I do remember having the belt at the end. That's what keeps me driving every day. People ask me what my number one goal is, what I want most, and that's my family and that belt. Those things are what matter most to me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you think everything dream-wise will become clearer as the fight gets closer?
Johny Hendricks: Oh yeah, oh yeah. Even with Carlos Condit, I knew it would be a hard three round fight. I didn't go in there expecting to knock him out. That's part of what everything leads to. I like to see how things go. It's a crazy thing how everything's worked out. My dreams have been pretty comfortable with what happened.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With St. Pierre a year out from his injury and having been in trouble in recent fights, do you think he's vulnerable at this point in his career?
Johny Hendricks: I'm hoping not. I hope not. I'd like to say I beat GSP when he was still in his prime. Yes, injuries happen, they happen to everyone, but I still think he's got it and I'm hoping that he does. I might be biased because I want him to still have it, but I think he does.
Johny would like to thank his family, his fans, God, his coaches and teammates as well as his sponsor Reebok. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnyHendricks.