On paper, top welterweight contender Johny Hendricks may pose the biggest threat to Georges St-Pierre’s championship reign.
St-Pierre is known for his stiff and accurate jab accompanied with arguably the best wrestling in the sport. Hendricks’ wrestling resume is extensive. He’s a four-time NCAA Division I All-American, a three-time Big 12 Conference Champion and a two-time National Champion wrestling out of Oklahoma State University. In addition to his wrestling pedigree, Hendricks knocks people out. Half of his wins have come by way of knockout.
Preparing to meet St-Pierre in the UFC 167 main event on Nov. 16, Hendricks went back to his wrestling roots.
“Well, the last, I don’t know five, six fights, ever since I moved back to Texas, I’ve been able to go back to Oklahoma State,” said Hendricks during a media conference call promoting the event.
“My wrestling is getting sharper each time I go back. My coaches say that right now I could probably go back and still wrestle and try out for the Olympics and that means a lot to me because I don’t put in enough time for wrestling,” added the 30-year-old athlete.
Wrestling is where Hendricks comes from, and it’s that lifetime of competition that’s prepared him for what he’ll face inside the Octagon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday. While St-Pierre has more mixed martial arts experience and time in the spotlight, Hendricks believes he’s the more experienced in competition.
“I’ve been under the lights since my freshman year in high school. I’ve wrestled 130 matches – 140 matches in high school. I wrestled 140 matches in college. The spotlight doesn’t get much more than that,” he said. “I’ve been competing my whole life. Who cares about the spotlight? Who cares about all this other crap? I’m facing a man. I’m facing Georges St-Pierre. Experience, I have plenty of experience.”
The title fight against St-Pierre will be Hendricks’ first five-round fight, and he believes that he’s made adequate adjustments in training to prepare.
“I just had to add on extra. To be the world champ and the motivation to add on 30 more minutes or 45 more minutes or an hour each workout was easy to do because of what my desires are,” said Hendricks.
“So it was easy to train for a five-round fight and that’s really what I’m looking at is, it is a little different. Don’t get me wrong. It was a little rougher. But it was something that I’ve working for this whole time is to try to get to this five-round fight. So realistically, like I said, putting in the extra time was easy for me because of what I want and what I desire,” added the welterweight contender.
Hendricks knows he’s taking on one of the most well-rounded fighters in UFC history. He knows what St-Pierre brings to the table and doesn’t fear any of it.
“There’s nothing that I fear. And the reason why is because fear is only a mental game. He’s just a man just like I am. We can both win this fight and we can both lose this fight. I’m going into this fight and I’m holding nothing back. I’m not going to fear nothing. I’m going to chance everything to win this fight,” he said. “That’s the way I’ve been training is that way, so why change up something now? Yes, it is a different type of fight, but don’t let nothing stand in your way to get your hand raised. That’s my motto.
“My mental game has been developed since I was a sophomore in college. So that wasn’t my main concern. My main concern was this is my first five-round fight. How do we train for this? How do we this? How do we do that? And that’s sort of what we focused on the most. My mental state will never be in question,” added Hendricks.
“I know that just because the wrestling that I went through, and that’s something that I went back to. I did a lot of trips to Oklahoma State. I had to do a lot grinding to remember where I came from. And in return, I know that’s going to give me the shape, I know that’s going to give me the confidence, and that’s going to give me the mental toughness that I’ve had,” he continued. “Mental toughness can come in many ways, shapes and forms, but that’s sort of the way that I like to base mine off of is how well I’m doing in the wrestling room, not the fight world, because the fight world is easy compared to wrestling. And so that’s where I measure everything that I need to do.”
Hendricks is impressed with what St-Pierre has been able to do to accomplish and is excited to test his skills against the champ’s.
“What’s impressive is he’s been able to continue to win that way. So that’s what I like about this fight is that we’re both saying, ‘Hey, yes, I’m going to try to hit you with my left hand. I’m going to try to knock you out and I’m going to nullify your wrestling,’” said Hendricks. “Georges St-Pierre is coming out here saying, ‘Yes, I’m going to do my jab. I’m going to take you down.’ Whoever can nullify the other person is going to win this fight. And that’s what makes this exciting for me is that this is what we’re going to do. Who’s actually going to prevail? That’s what makes me excited.
“Georges St-Pierre, we know he’s very good. He’s very good at changing levels. He’s very good at getting takedowns. I know if I can prevent that then it’s more in my favor because I know I have the power to finish this fight and that’s what I want.”
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