Johny Hendricks: Thin hand wraps led to throwing at '70 percent'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Less than two weeks after dropping a split decision against champion Georges St-Pierre at UFC 167 -- and regardless if popular opinion is that he won on the scorecards -- Johny Hendricks says he’s more focused on what comes next rather than what happened last.

The freshly shaved welterweight challenger appeared on Monday’s episode of the MMA Hour and told host Ariel Helwani that, though he thinks he won the fight and has heard the outcry, he’s already looking forward to his rematch with St-Pierre.

"You know what? I’m over it," he said. "I’m looking forward to the future, and that’s really I can do at this point. It is what it is. Just move forward, and I know I’m going to get him again if he doesn’t retire. And the next time I will make sure it doesn’t go to the judges. There’s a couple of things I’m going to take into my hands -- literally -- and I’m going to do everything I can to finish GSP. I had him hurt in the second round, and next time I’ll make sure I do finish it."

Hendricks recently went on record complaining about his hand wraps being too thin on the night of the fight with St-Pierre. When asked if that’s what he meant by "literally," he said yes.

"[The hand wraps] were sort of not so much rushed, but what happened was he was wrapping them and I saw that they just weren’t as thick as they should have been," Hendricks said. "I know I hit hard. I know I can’t allow that to happen. But instead of speaking up, I just went with the flow. I didn’t want to cause any ripples. So it’s all my fault, but that’s why my hands were that bruised, because that padding wasn’t thick enough for them."

Hendricks appeared to be throwing a little more tentatively and with increasingly less force as the fight wore on. By the fifth round, the decisive one for St-Pierre, his hands were clearly hurting him. Hendricks later made waves by saying he was throwing punched at only "70%," which left people to wonder why he wouldn’t go for broke.

And the reason, Hendricks said, was that he didn’t want his hands to end up broke.

"After the second round, after I sort of rocked him I threw one hard punch," he said. "I could tell that that wasn’t good enough. If I would have thrown, let’s say I threw at 100%, do I break my hand in the second round, or do I break it in the third? Or do I break it in the fourth? Or do I break it in the fifth?

"That’s something you can’t count on. You can’t have that in your mind whenever you’re throwing punches because you’re going against the best, and if you break a tool, you think he’s going to figure that out? Yeah. He’s going to figure it out. That’s why I toned down my punches, that way I knew that if I hit him that it wouldn’t break."

In the aftermath of the fight there was a kick up of smaller controversies, such as whether or not Hendricks "tapped" during the fight. Though the claim always seemed conspiratorial (if not dubious), Hendricks explained in detail that he did not tap, and parlayed that with the sequence of events.

The other controversial moment came in the second round when Hendricks lost his mouthpiece and referee Mario Yamasaki intervened just when St-Pierre seemed most vulnerable to being knocked out. Hendricks had rocked St-Pierre with a left hand, which left him scrambling to regather his wits when Yamasaki moved in.

Even here, Hendricks sided with the referee while centering the brunt of the blame on himself.

"No, here’s the thing -- my mouthpiece fell out, and I’m the one doing the damage," he said. "And who’s to say that GSP doesn’t land a punch, and I don’t have a mouthpiece in, boom, break a tooth…there’s a lot of things that could happen to a fighter without the mouthpiece. And so, no, I don’t think he made a bad call. It’s my fault for not keeping my mouthpiece in my mouth."

While Hendricks has hunches that his next fight will be an immediate rematch with St-Pierre, it’s wait and see with the current champion as he figures out his future. Given that that’s the case, Hendricks was asked who he thought might be out there besides that he may need to stand in there with next.

"Realistically there’s two guys that are probably going to get a shot at me, and I’m pretty sure [St-Pierre] knows who they are," he said. "One of them is Robbie Lawler, and the other one is Carlos Condit. If there’s an interim belt one of those two guys is going to get the shot. [Or Matt Brown] if he beats Condit. So you’ve got three guys."

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