There were millions who thought that Johny Hendricks should have walked out of UFC 167 as new welterweight champion, including “Bigg Rigg” himself. But instead of dwelling on his controversial split decision loss to Georges St. Pierre, Hendricks chose to accept the outcome, vowing not to leave his next title in the hands of the judges.
And his next opportunity soon arose. Last Friday GSP walked away from the UFC, vacating the belt and creating the need for a new titleholder. Hendricks was the obvious choice for half of it, and while many thought Carlos Condit would comprise the other half, ultimately the surging Robbie Lawler got the nod at UFC 171 in Dallas.
Ever the calm and collected fighter, Hendricks is just rolling with the proverbial punches amidst a strange scenario. “Bigg Rigg” appeared on today’s "The MMA Hour” to detail his reaction when he found out about GSP’s decision:
“Actually Dana White he called me and sort of broke the news. I was in Disney World. I told him, I don’t care about GSP, I believe I beat him, and so does the world, so I was just like, ‘thank you Dana White. Give me another shot about the belt.’ I told him thank you so much for believing in me. I was super excited, who wouldn’t be? You’re fighting in Dallas, your own background. This is going to be a great fight. It’s going to be a fight for the fans, and I can’t wait.”
Hendricks is understandably pumped up about fighting in Texas. The Oklahoma native also touched on his lack of surprise when he heard that GPS left:
“You know, he knew he was gonna have to fight me again, and that might not even be it. He’s done some great things in this sport; he’s done what he wanted to do. And I don’t blame him for leaving. But this whole time, I wasn’t fighting GSP; I was fighting myself. I want that belt more than anything.”
Ariel Helwani asked Hendricks if he thought GSP would have stepped away had he beaten “Bigg Rigg” more clearly:
“I think he was still out of it (at the press conference). And that’s the thing; I didn’t really hit him that great. You know, now you got out, you won the fight (to the judges); why not go out on top? You just don’t know what the future is going to hold. My goal is to get that belt and hold onto it as long as I can.”
There’s not much doubt that Hendricks is at the top of a stacked 170-pound division, at least for the time being. Lawler has been an absolute wrecking ball in his return to the UFC, knocking out Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker and edging Rory MacDonald via decision inside of a year. “Ruthless” looks reinvented at welterweight, and Hendricks knows he presents a much different challenge than GSP:
“Robbie Lawler is more like me. Standup guy who just wants to knock your head off. And that sort of makes me excited. GSP’s a guy that you have to be concerned with how you do your takedowns, positioning, there’s so many things that go into winning against GSP. He (Lawler) has thrown up some great wins; he’s a great fighter. We both have power, and we both like to use it. I like fighting against fellow southpaws. It makes it easier to do a couple of things. We hope we can find those kind of gaps in Robbie Lawler.”
Hendricks is the new man of the hour at welterweight after the longtime king stepped down. The difference is he doesn’t have the belt quite yet. Most will deem him the early favorite over Lawler but anything can happen when “Ruthless” steps into the cage. This bout has the potential for some big fireworks.
Will Hendricks emerge from the American Airlines center with the belt he feels is rightfully his?
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