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Johny Hendricks won't blame training camp change for loss to 'Wonderboy'

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Johny Hendricks came into a UFC fight for the first time without flying the Team Takedown banner Saturday night. That bout ended in a first-round loss for the former UFC welterweight champion.

Hendricks, though, did not want to blame the camp and management change for his TKO defeat against Stephen Thompson in the main event of UFC Fight Night 82 in Las Vegas.

"Stephen Thompson was just a better man tonight," Hendricks said at the post-fight press conference. "What can I say? He performed. I hesitated. I don't hesitate usually. A lot of it goes into preparation. I switched camps and all these other things. But no excuses. He was just a better man."

Hendricks (17-4) struggled with Thompson's footwork, movement and range. He could never properly close the distance to do the two things he is very good at: wrestling and landing hard left hands. "Bigg Rigg" admitted he didn't quite expect Thompson to evade as successfully as he did.

"In training camp, whenever I closed the difference on them, [training partners would] always fire back," Hendricks said. "He didn't fire back. He would continue to move. And then all of a sudden it was like, oh c'mon. I wanted him to fight, I wanted him to fight, I wanted him to fight. But I'm playing into his game."

Hendricks, 32, had been a part of Team Takedown since the dawn of his MMA career nearly a decade ago. He didn't want to talk about the split much before the fight and he did have a lot of the same people with him for this camp, including striking coach Steven Wright and boxing coach Tony Cabello. But longtime head coach Marc Laimon was not in his corner.

It was a surprising loss for Hendricks, who came in a sizable favorite. The only defeats the Texas resident had in the last six years came in title fights against Robbie Lawler and Georges St-Pierre -- and the case could have been made that he should have both of those split decisions.

Afterward, Hendricks was thinking about in-fight scenarios out loud on the dais. He has a good idea he'll probably fight "Wonderboy" again at some point.

"If somebody beats me, how do I beat them?" Hendricks said. "Because I'm pretty sure I'm gonna see him again. And if I see him again I want to make sure that it's not the same outcome.

"I know what he caught me with. I know what he hit me with and I know really everything that landed. But it's still the fact that I lost."

Losing to Lawler was different, Hendricks said. It was a very close fight at UFC 181 in December 2014 and Lawler's stand-in-the-pocket-and-bang style fits Hendricks well. Thompson was in and out with superior speed and footwork. He never stayed in one place too long.

"As soon as I felt like I landed something, he was like, screw that, I'm back out," Hendricks said. "Training partners are very important on this."

Many of those were new. A lot of new things happened in Hendricks life, including a new diet under nutritionist Louis Giordano, who made the former champ's weight management much improved. Hendricks, unlike previous fights, reached the welterweight limit pretty easily Friday.

The fight, though, didn't go nearly as smoothly. Hendricks said he hopes to compete again in August after the birth of his fourth child this spring. "Bigg Rigg" didn't seem to be too worried about how he'd rebound.

"You get one day to prove who's the better fighter and he did it," Hendricks said of Thompson. "It sucks when you lose, but, like I said, I'll be back. I'm gonna get better. I'm gonna get stronger. I'm still figuring things out."