The UFC just lost another former champion this week.
Two days after former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans retired on the first episode of ‘Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show,’ former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks announced his retirement on MMAjunkie Radio.
‘Bigg Rigg’ said he was getting out of the sport and returning to his roots to focus on coaching wrestling:
“I’m done. I’m retiring. I’m getting out of the MMA world. I’ve been thinking about this long and hard for a while. I’m going to get back to my roots. I’m going to start coaching at All Saints (Episcopal School in Fort Worth, Texas). I coached a little bit of high school last year, but I’m going to make the move over to All Saints and start doing those things.”
Hendricks leaves the UFC on a highly disappointing run where he lost five of his last six fights and six of his last eight with the promotion. He won the welterweight title in a “Fight of the Year”-winning war with fellow former champion Robbie Lawler at UFC 171 in March 2014 after narrowly losing to all-time great Georges St-Pierre in November 2013, a bout that remains one of the most controversial decisions ever rendered in a UFC title fight and one many still feel “Bigg Rigg” won.
The former Team Takedown flagship member lost the title in a rematch with Lawler his next time out to the Octagon, however.
He said that he probably wouldn’t even come back for a rematch with St-Pierre, but would return if the UFC offered him a million dollars – a pipe dream that simply will not happen at this point. His goal now to coach high school wrestlers into NCAA national champs like he was at Oklahoma State, “Bigg Rigg” revealed he was telling the UFC and USADA that he was stepping down:
“Even if you threw Georges St-Pierre at me, the world knows (I beat him),” Hendricks said. “Realistically, I’m satisfied unless they say, ‘Johny, here’s a million-dollar payday. Come fight this dude.’ You can’t turn that down. That would be stupid. But everything I set my mind to, I achieved it. That’s the gist of what I’m feeling at this moment and what I’ve been feeling the last month.
“… I’ll call the UFC and tell them I’m done. I’ll call USADA and tell them I’m done. It’s never a honeymoon phase with me. My goal is to get (high school) wrestlers into national champions. I want to get wrestlers better than I was, better than I could ever be. … For me to do that, I have to put the past in the past and start moving forward.”
Hendricks seemed to have few if any regrets, expressing gratitude at those who had helped him achieve what he had and at his view he had accomplished everything he put his mind to.
With that in mind, he recalled an appearance on the exact same radio show nine years ago where he promised he would become UFC champion. After reaching that mountaintop, he said it was time to get back to something resembling a more normal family life:
“I’ve been blessed with people around me to help me get there,” Hendricks said. “What have I done with my life to be satisfied with where I’m at right now? As soon as I started doing that, I knew it was time for me to start doing something else. I’ve been very blessed to accomplish everything I’ve wanted to. Anything I’ve put my mind to, I’ve done it.
“I remember getting on (MMAjunkie Radio) nine years ago saying, ‘I’m going to be the champ.’ Everybody was probably like, ‘Who’s this joker saying he’s going to do this?’ And right now, I know what I have to do to get back to where I want to be. I got the taste of the family life, I got the taste of the normal life, and right now … I’m completely satisfied with everything that’s going on. That’s why I wanted to give it to you first, the MMAjunkie world – is because you guys have been there from the very beginning.”
There’s no reason to criticize a man who believes he accomplished everything he set out to do, and after becoming a UFC champion before suffering his downward run where he was knocked out by Stephen Thompson, Tim Boetsch, and Paulo Costa, there probably isn’t anything he could still accomplish at the highest levels of the UFC compared to what he already achieved.
“Bigg Rigg” was once feared as one of the most powerful knockout artists in all of MMA, and while his dropoff from that point was a precipitous and shocking one, he did hoist gold in one of the UFC’s toughest divisions – even if he never defended it.
Wrestling will be his passion now, and we wish Hendricks all the best in his post-UFC undertaking.