Ten men have come before him and only one has been successful at beating UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre in a title fight – leaving the man known as GSP to be considered by many as the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time.
Thus, similar to the situation Anderson Silva faced as the long-time middleweight champion, fighters are often so intimidated by St-Pierre’s accomplishments they can be prone to freezing up while entering the cage to face him.
For Johny Hendricks, that notion is ridiculous.
“Who cares, man? Who cares if I’m fighting Georges St-Pierre?!” he told MayorsManor. “Who cares if he has a belt, you know what I’m saying? None of that matters. When you get in that octagon, he doesn’t have a belt. I don’t have a belt. You’re just two people. Who’s better that night, that’s what you’re fighting for. So, whenever I get in the octagon, I feel the confidence. As soon as I get in there, that’s when I feel like I can release my inner self. I can be who I really want to be, and a guy who loves, enjoys and wants to just hurt people.”
The Oklahoma native has been doing that for many years now, racking up a 15-1 record, including 11 wins in the UFC.
After knocking out Jon Fitch in December 2011, Hendricks thought he’d be getting a title shot. It didn’t happen.
Wins over Josh Koscheck and Martin Kampmann in 2012 didn’t do it either.
Then, after beating Carlos Condit in March of this year, UFC made it official, Hendricks would finally get his shot at the incredibly popular champion.
“I want them to chant (GSP),” he said, referring to what should be an electric atmosphere inside the MGM Arena come fight time. “Oh yeah, because every time they chant that, it makes me want to do that much more, you know what I mean? It makes me want to try that much harder, it makes me want to finish that fight that much better. That’s really what I’m going to use that as. I’ve been booed all my life. In wrestling, they hated me. They hated me!”
At Friday’s weigh-ins, Hendricks came out to a loud mixture of cheers and boos. However, when GSP made his way to the scale, the cheers were deafening.
Of course, it didn’t phase the challenger.
“They hated me in wrestling because I was the same way as I fight – smiling. Enjoy life, man! Life’s too short to not enjoy what you do. I want to be out there and I want to enjoy myself. So if they want to boo and they want to chant ‘GSP,’ I’m going to back them 110%.”
UFC President Dana White doesn’t see Hendricks’ statements as just some shtick or pre-fight hype.
“Johny Hendricks absolutely, positively knows that he’s going to beat Georges St-Pierre and he absolutely, positively knows he’s going to knock him out,” White said. “That’s how all guys should feel when they go into a fight. Some guys pretend that they feel that way, but don’t actually feel that way. This dude does. Look at him, he’s been in there with the best of the world and look at what he’s been able to accomplish. I think the best thing that’s ever happened to him was fighting Carlos Condit before Georges St-Pierre because that fight took him to another level, winning that fight.”
Sounding like a man on a mission as fight night approaches, Hendricks is also keenly aware of the tricky balance a fighter must find in being confident, but not cocky.
“That’s it, you know. If people see my true nature, I want the belt,” he explained. “Yeah, there is a fine line between the two, but I back it up. I don’t push people; I don’t talk that much trash. I say what I need to say to get my point across, but that’s it.”
Back home in Dallas, unlike most of the locals, he claims to only watch a little football.
“I like watching baseball,” Hendricks said with a smile, under his thick, bushy beard. “I just started watching hockey [too], the Dallas Stars.”
It’s those type of distractions that he believes are necessary during the rigors of a long pre-fight camp. “You’ve gotta have those. You’ve gotta get away. If you’re always thinking ‘this, this, this, this’ it’ll just eat you alive.”
Even so, his preparation also involved all the obvious elements of hard work, dedication, sacrifice and patience. There was a little something extra at play, as well.
“I don’t know where [my confidence] comes from. I just know that I know what it takes to be a winner. I know what it takes to be a champion and I believe I can do that. I don’t know how or why. It’s just, like I said, I have that belief that I can do it.”
Although it’s highly likely Hendricks beats GSP, any comparisons to Silva losing his title earlier this year in the same building just aren’t there for the making.
“Well, for one, my opponent’s not going to have his hands down by his ankles,” Hendricks joked. “His hands were all the way down to his knees. That’s one difference. Secondly, my guy’s not going to act like he’s knocked out when he’s not. So, there’s one huge difference. Two, Chris Wiedman, he’s more of a wrestler style. He wants to get you to the ground, do a little bit of damage. Maybe do a little bit on the feet, but get you back down. I’m more the guy that just wants to knock you out on your feet.”
Look for it to happen Saturday night in Las Vegas.
A new champion will be crowned, Johny ‘Bigg Rigg’ Hendricks.
Other UFC 167 Predictions:
Chael Sonnen > Rashad Evans
Robbie Lawler > Rory MacDonald
Josh Koscheck > Tyron Woodley
Ali Bagautinov > Tim Elliot
Prelims on Fox Sports 1
Donald Cerrone > Evan Dunham
Ed Herman > Thales Leites
Rick Story > Brian Ebersole
Erik Perez > Edwin Figueroa
Sergio Pettis > Will Campuzano (not televised)
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