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New champion Johny Hendricks ‘thought about’ backing out of UFC 171 with elbow injury

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Turns out the classic UFC 171 title fight between Robbie Lawler and Johny Hendricks comes with an additional twist -- as in, the man who emerged victorious and now holds the UFC’s welterweight belt thought about pulling out of the fight with a bum elbow.

The UFC’s new 170-pound champion Hendricks appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour and, though reluctant to get into too much detail until he had it checked out, divulged that an injury suffered in training nearly sidelined him. Turns out while everybody was talking about big left power bombs, Hendricks was nursing his right elbow, an injury that effectively prevented him from taking Lawler down.

"Realistically, it’s my elbow," he told host Ariel Helwani. "It happened actually a week-and-a-half before, and it happened in the first round."

When asked how it happened, Hendricks said the recurrence showed up in an early exchange.

"Throwing a hook," he said. "And whenever I threw a hook it just spazzed out. I don’t know what happened. I felt my arm actually pop. We’ll see what happens."

During the pay-per-view telecast, Hendricks could be heard complaining about his shoulder between the third and fourth rounds --the rounds where Lawler began to turn the tables and take over the fight.

"I was pretty hurt, I’m not going to lie," Hendricks said. "[Lawler] hit me pretty good. The third round was bad enough that in the fourth round he was still able to do it.

"There were a couple of punches where I thought, I really need to throw back. Because [I thought] if I let him get a couple more of these in, yeah, it could be over. But I told myself, hey, just fire back. Just fire back. Calm down. And when I told myself that I was able to start landing some of my own punches."

Even rocked and rattled by Lawler in the third, Hendricks still had the presence of mind to use his code word for the elbow injury that was plaguing him. Hendricks could be heard saying that his shoulder was "jacked up" to his cornermen, which he says was nothing more than a smokescreen in case anybody from Lawler’s side might be listening.

"The shoulder didn’t bother me -- the shoulder was never an issue," he said. "I said ‘shoulder’ because what was going on, just in case it got relayed back."

Although pain wasn’t an issue throughout the five-round fight, Hendricks emphasized that the injury did prevent him for attempting takedowns, essentially forcing to stand in front of Lawler in the pocket. Though it made for a memorable brawl for spectators, it was something Hendricks wasn’t planning to do.

"It was whenever I tried for takedowns, I could not get it," he said.

When asked if the injury was severe enough that he considered dropping out of the fight, he said the idea crossed his mind.

"We thought about it," he said. "But that world championship means a lot more."

Hendricks was able to win a unanimous decision, 48-47 on all three scorecards, because he fought with urgency in the fifth round. He also secured a takedown halfway through to leave no doubt.

When asked when he would get the elbow checked out, Hendricks said he was going to do that as soon as the interview was over. He stated he would like to have his first title defense in either September or October, depending on how things go.