“It’s great that I’m on the main card and more people will get to see me. I fight for myself but it’s great to have followers, because the more people who are backing me the better I’m going to fight.”
As the 2010 holiday season kicks off, UFC welterweight Johny Hendricks (9-0) has a lot to be thankful for. His daughter Abry turned one in November, and a move to Arlington, Texas to train full time with Marc Laimon at Cobra Kai Jiu Jitsu has been a positive all around.
“The family is doing great,” says Hendricks. “Since we moved to Texas it’s been easier on them. My wife Christina and daughter get to see my parents and her parents at least once a month. I’ve actually been training better since we moved.”
And that’s a good thing. Hendricks faces Rick Story (11-3) at The Ultimate Fighter Finale on December 4th live on Spike TV. Story’s won his last four fights, TKO’ing Dustin Hazelett on the same UFC 117 show where Hendricks finished a game Charlie Brenneman 40 seconds into the second round. Fans should expect fireworks when these two meet.
“He’s the same type of fighter as me; he wants to go out banging and standing up,” said Hendricks. “When you look at his style and mine it’s going to be whoever can win the standup battle. He does like to bang, likes to get people up against the fence, take them down and do some ground and pound. I’m just the opposite. If the takedown is there naturally I’ll take it, but I’m not looking for it. I’m looking to finish the fight.”
Hendricks is undefeated in his professional fight career, but he says he learned a long time ago not to rest on his laurels. It was the 2009 NCAA national wrestling championship tournament and Johny was 56-0 going into the finals match with Iowa’s Mark Perry. Perry upset the two time national champion by a score of 4-3.
“Like I always say, anyone can be beat at anytime. Back then, I got to the stage where I thought I couldn’t be beat. I couldn’t be beat, and then it happened,” says Hendricks. “And that’s when I took a step back and said don’t worry about records or rankings. You have one goal and in wrestling that’s to be the national champion. I fell one match short of that my senior year, but, the fight game I’m zero-zero every fight, until I hit the spot I want to hit. And that’s to be the UFC champion. That’s my whole goal. But honestly each fight I’m fighting to stay in the UFC. That’s the way I look at, ‘if I lose this match I might get cut,’ so I go in there every time fighting for my life.”
Hendricks says had he won that match with Perry he would have likely gone on to wrestle in the Olympics, and he may have skipped MMA altogether.
“I had a lot of opportunities to do other things, but I would probably be a wrestling coach somewhere,” he says.
For Johny Hendricks, God had other plans.
“After that match I prayed about it, and asked ‘what do You want me to do?’ And then my manager called me and said ‘do you want to try fighting,’ and all of a sudden it was like ‘boom,’ I’m in the fight game and I love it. MMA for me is what I was made to do. When I step in the cage I get to release my true inner self, because whenever I’m in there I feel like I can be a warrior and someone who loves doing something that a lot of people don’t. I didn’t think that I would like it as much as I have been.”
Hendricks enjoys fighting so much he’s actually known as “The Happy Beard Guy” after running around the Octagon in Philadelphia smiling ear-to-ear after knocking out Amir Sadollah at UFC 101. The beard has become a conversation piece for the Oklahoma born and bred fighter, and it’s easier for fans to notice him.
“It’s great that I’m on the main card and more people will get to see me,” he said. “I fight for myself but it’s great to have followers, because the more people who are backing me the better I’m going to fight.”
As for the beard, he says Laimon’s to blame.
“The reason I started the beard, I was letting it grow and I didn’t want to shave,” he said. “It was before the Alex Serdyukov fight in the WEC. And Marc asked me why did you let it grow so long, and I said whenever I look at myself I feel like crap. I look like crap. And I know I’m preparing for something, you know what I mean? And after that fight I shaved it off and Marc was like, ‘why’d you shave it off? You should have left it.’ I shaved it because I did what I had to do. Win or lose it had to come off because I knew that I could finally relax. But from here on out, I’ll always have the beard when it comes to fighting, just because Marc didn’t want me to shave it off.”
Hendricks says his weight cut has gone better than ever this time around, and he says he’s eating right for the first time in his career.
“You don’t put low octane gas in a Ferrari,” he said. “You’ve put the best fuel in that car. So that’s the way I’m looking at my body now. I’m putting in the good fuel and it helps me train better, helps me heal faster so I can get back to training.”
When Hendricks steps into the Octagon on December 4th, he knows he’s going to have his work cut out for him, but he also knows to be the best, he’s got to be beat the best.
“It’s a good matchup for both of us. We’re both coming up. We’re both talented. We’re both going to go out there and put on a good show and whoever wins the fight is one step closer to his goal. For me that’s to be the UFC champion. That’s my whole goal. It doesn’t matter who is in front of me, I just know that I have to keep getting better and get one step closer to my goal and whoever they throw in front of me, I have to overcome.”