Johny Hendricks broke his silence on Monday, speaking publicly for the first time since complications cutting weight led to the cancellation of his Oct. 3 fight against Tyron Woodley. The former UFC welterweight champion said he awoke the day before UFC 192 weigh-ins feeling "really good" at 184 pounds, 13 pounds off from the division's limit, and only realized something was wrong after he dropped a meager two pounds during his first weight cutting session.
"That's when my body sort of started feeling different," Hendricks told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. "I tried to push through it, went and did another session trying to work out, and that's when I was like, okay, something's definitely wrong. I didn't know what it was, I just knew something was wrong. Both my left and my right side started to hurt at that point. I went to the hospital and that's when I found out that my intestines were dried up and I had a kidney stone in my right side.
"There's a point where I was sort of grateful that I didn't continue, because it took [my body] a week to get over what happened."
Hendricks was ultimately pulled from his No. 1 contender fight against Woodley and diagnosed with an intestinal blockage and a kidney stone, the latter of which remains intact in the fighter's system. Hendricks described the pain as if someone was poking him with a knife in his right side. He expects to visit the doctor on either Oct. 18 or Oct. 19 to "get it dealt with or have them help me push it."
As one of the heaviest welterweights in the division, Hendricks has historically struggled with his weight cuts, but his experience at UFC 192 marked the first time as a professional that he actually failed to make weight.
Hendricks attributed his botched cut to a number of factors, but none more than his venison-heavy diet during camp.
"That's what sucks more than anything, is that you work so hard to showcase what you have, and all of a sudden the diet that we were on backfires," Hendricks said. "Which sucks, but I've learned after we did this, we did a lot of research, and I was eating a lot of deer meat and a lot of high-protein animal protein, which, that's the leading cause of kidney stones and your intestines failing you.
"I had no idea, because I usually eat a lot of fish and a lot of chicken. I wanted to eat more protein, a lot of cleaner protein, so we focused more on that and it ended up backfiring. I think that if I would've eaten more chicken and salmon, I wouldn't have been in this situation."
Hendricks said that in retrospect, warning signs for his impending intestinal failure were present throughout camp, however both he and his coaches missed them because his weight was lower and more in control than it had ever been before.
"There was a lot of signs that were telling me that I needed to change up my diet, and it wasn't my weight," Hendricks said. "My weight, I hit 189 three weeks out of the fight. That's the first time, and I have proof because one of my coaches was sitting there, they were all worried, ‘we don't know where your weight's at,' they were sort of getting in my face. Like, ‘hey, let's hit 189 then. I can do that.' I was walking in at 193. I hit 189, and then that's when everything sort of started to fall apart.
"We didn't think anything of it at the time, but now looking back, I understand, because ... I would only be able to do like a 10 or 20-minute workout with [my coach], then I'd have to take a break. After doing research, I find out that the way I did my high protein (diet) was absorbing all of my water, so therefore it was hurting me in the long run."
The weeks since the hospitalization have not been kind to Hendricks.
Despite not fighting, UFC officials paid Woodley his show money and awarded him the division's next title shot. Hendricks, meanwhile, has become the target of derision from both fans and fighters alike for perceived unprofessionalism during the weight cutting process.
"I know there's going to be venom sent, but what people don't understand is that they don't get to watch one fight, right? Well, I don't get paid," Hendricks said. "And like I said, I had to give up three months in training camp. I worked very hard and I was very prepared to fight Woodley. And then the next fight, let's say probably in March or April, I would be fighting for the title. So these people that are spitting venom, they don't look at that. They only look at what's in front of them at that moment."
Hendricks said that the plan after he recovers is to undergo a "mini weight cut" to 180 pounds later this month, then assess his future and whether a healthy welterweight return is feasible.
His situation is made more frustrating simply because it wasn't long ago that he seemed to have conquered his weight cutting demons.
Hendricks showed up to UFC 185 in March extolling the virtues of his renewed commitment to maintaining his weight. The results spoke for themselves: Hendricks breezed through fight week then dominated Matt Brown to climb back into the title picture.
"That was the easiest [weight cut] I've ever had," he said. "So I was like, okay, let's build off of that. I'm always about building. I don't like staying the same, which, on the diet aspect, I should've stayed the same. I should've changed a couple other things.
"It's a learning curve. It sucks that I had to learn this way. I wish I still had a nutritionist, but it's just one of those things, sometimes you've got to learn the hard way. And like I said, going from the Matt Brown fight to this one, I was like, ‘dude, this is going to be awesome. Another easy weight cut.' I was getting my weight down the way I wanted to. I felt strong. I felt big. I was drinking plenty of fluids. I was like, this is going to be a cakewalk. And in return, the time that I'm the most confident is when it goes the worst."