Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
After a highlight-reel knockout victory on Nov. 17, Johny Hendricks thought he'd built a rock-solid case for the No. 1 contender spot. He could boast a five-fight win streak, longer than anyone in the division not named Georges St-Pierre. He could cite three straight triumphs over top five opposition. He could point to his crushing power and wrestling pedigree as threats to the champ. Despite the strong resume, he knew there was a chance he might be cast aside for the once-in-a-lifetime super fight that would pit St-Pierre against Anderson Silva. That, he could have swallowed hard and lived with.
But with every comment St-Pierre made about the proposition, Hendricks started to feel emboldened. It seemed that GSP didn't want the super fight, and preferred to stay in his division. Crisis averted, it seemed.
While Hendricks (14-1) was busy looking off to Silva, he was blindsided by Dana White's proclamation that the welterweight champion does indeed want to stay at 170, but not to fight Hendricks. Instead, citing "unfinished business," he told the UFC he wants to fight Nick Diaz.
The same Nick Diaz coming off a loss, who is currently serving a one-year suspension for testing positive for marijuana.
That left Hendricks scratching his head, and ultimately, fuming.
"I think that he’s trying to stay away from me," he said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "What other reason is there? I tried to analyze it every which way. He said because [Diaz] talked trash. Who cares? I work out with guys that talk trash to me every day. People do talk trash and it’s all fun and games. Who cares what somebody says over the internet or to your face? You fight to prove your worthiness. That’s the way I look at it, and I feel I proved I can go with GSP, and that I should go with GSP, and here he is keeping me out of that."
What angers Hendricks the most is that while Diaz has been serving his suspension, he has fought twice against tip-top competition, beating Josh Koscheck and Martin Kampmann. And ultimately, his hard work and success may not matter.
His anger is not with Diaz, he said, but St-Pierre, who exerted his influence as champion to ask for a matchup that doesn't make sense from a sporting perspective. According to White, St-Pierre requested the matchup, and he's willing to grant it because, "he doesn't ask for things. So if he wants to fight Nick Diaz, and Nick Diaz wants to fight him, then that's probably the fight we'll make."
That doesn't sound fair to Hendricks, who felt he was building towards something with his win streak and the decisiveness of his performances.
"More or less, I thought my heart got ripped out of me," he said. "I go out there and I try to do so much to prove I am the one who should fight GSP and GSP takes it away from me. All it's doing is giving me more drive to want to fight him."
As of right now, Hendricks isn't sure what will come next for him. He expects to speak with UFC's matchmaker Joe Silva in the next few days. Speaking with his trademark honesty, he admits he wouldn't be very excited to fight anyone but St-Pierre.
A fight with Diaz wouldn't make sense for the same reason a GSP-Diaz fight wouldn't make sense: because Diaz is coming off a loss. And in his estimation, no one else has his current credentials.
"We fight every day and we fight to be our best every night that we have a fight to get this chance," he said. "Here I am, I know I’m the no. 1 contender. I know this. So, anything less is not a disrespect to anybody else, but you see the end of the tunnel, and then someone sends you a curveball, to send you off route ..."
Hendricks' thought trailed off there until he recomposed himself and said he would leave it up to his manager to determine his next course of action.
He still holds out hope that he'll get the call. He is still training with GSP in mind, watching videos to look for tendencies and potential areas of weakness. He has GSP on the brain, and it's likely going to stay that way for a while, even if the UFC follows through and bumps him for Diaz.
"Here’s the thing: [St-Pierre and Diaz] had a chance; somebody didn't show up for press conferences and stuff like that," he said. "Who cares about the past? Just because you have unfinished business, well now that's with me, too. Because here I am supposed to be fighting you, and you -- GSP -- takes it away from me. So now I have unfinished business with GSP."
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