Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
MONTREAL -- The left hand of doom locked and loaded, Johny Hendricks comes to town as a prospector, hunting for a chance at gold. Like every other fighter who signs a UFC contract, this has been his single-minded quest since he made his octagon debut. But Hendricks' path is different; he has come tantalizingly close, only to see extra road blocks thrown his way as he neared his end goal. Hendricks thought he might receive a title shot after he beat Josh Koscheck last May. It didn't happen. Then, he was promised one after crushing Martin Kampmann in November. That opportunity never materialized. And so here is again, trying to hammer home the same message he thought he sent those two other times.
It's a position he never thought he'd find himself in, but the way he figures it, it's not his fault. He did what he was supposed to do in order to get to the champion. And he'll keep doing that as long as it's necessary.
In Carlos Condit, he sees a perfect delivery system for his message. The former WEC welterweight champion and UFC interim champ recently went the distance with 170-pound king Georges St-Pierre. Condit is tough and skilled and credible, and he also becomes an easy point of comparison for divisional status. If Hendricks wins? That's impressive in itself. If he one-ups St-Pierre and finishes Condit? Well, let's just say it couldn't easily be ignored.
"I gotta get past Carlos Condit," Hendricks said at Wednesday's UFC 158 open workouts. "Once I do, it's GSP time. If I beat Carlos Condit, nobody's in my way. GSP can't hide forever. I think after this one, if I beat Carlos Condit, it's GSP."
Asked if he really thought St-Pierre was hiding, Hendricks said "it seems like it," pointing out that GSP could have taken the Diaz fight after first facing him. Since the matchup was personal rather than merit-based, there was no expiration date on making it happen.
What he doesn't like is St-Pierre suggesting Hendricks isn't worthy of fighting for the belt because the champ believed Koscheck should have been awarded the decision against him. Hendricks pointed out that St-Pierre is on the record as saying he thought Condit out-pointed Diaz, and yet he was not just willing to take that fight; he demanded it.
"I want to look across the octagon and say, 'You have not faced anybody like me,'" Hendricks said. "That's what his little quote is: 'you've never faced anybody like me.' Bulls---. You've never faced anybody like me. That's why he didn't take the fight."
The insinuation there is that St-Pierre at best, didn't like the matchup, or at worst, feared Hendricks. The four-time collegiate All-American wrestler believes his mixture of power striking and top-level wrestling will be the one to flummox the cerebral champion.
"Maybe he didn't feel comfortable enough to take a tougher fight," Hendricks said. "I don't know. I don't know what's going through his head. I just wish he'd tell me."
If this all sounds like Hendricks is obsessed with St-Pierre, he insists that is not the case. It is all about wanting to be the undisputed best. Right now, that title belongs to St-Pierre. If St-Pierre were to win and then vacate the belt to move up to middleweight and fight Anderson Silva, Hendricks will gun for a slot in a title match. And if the belt was to change hands on Saturday night and shuttle off to Stockton with Nick Diaz, Hendricks said he would turn his sights towards him.
It's not like he doesn't have any impetus to fight Diaz, turned off as he was by Diaz's statement that nobody wanted to see Hendricks fight for the belt.
"Obviously he's never seen me fight because I knock people out," he said. "What does Diaz do? He talks trash, he throws his hands up. That's it. I knock people out."
Ultimately, whether it's St-Pierre or Diaz, or someone else, Hendricks insists his target is locked down. Eventually, there will be no more hiding spots.
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