Exclusive with Johny Hendricks, Part I: 'I Never Wanted to Hit Someone so Hard'

G DAnalyst IIIJanuary 30, 2012

For many, it takes a lifetime to fulfill a dream.

But for UFC welterweight Johny Hendricks (12-1), it took a matter of 12 seconds.

Hendricks recently recorded one of the fastest knockouts in UFC history when he met Jon Fitch (23-4-1) at UFC 141 to cap off a historical 2011.

After years of training and a life dedicated to wrestling and the sport of mixed martial arts, Hendricks saw his childhood principles of hard work and dedication finally pay off.

In a recent interview with Bleacher Report's Garrett Derr, Hendricks shared how he's become a rising star in the UFC's welterweight division and how his life's been turned upside down.

"I spent a lot of my childhood growing up in Oklahoma where I wrestled and played baseball," Hendricks said. "I quit playing baseball my junior year of high school as I wanted to put my focus towards wrestling."

Hendricks' transition to wrestling full time paid off when he earned a spot on the Oklahoma State Cowboys' wrestling squad.

"So, I continued to wrestle throughout high school and ended up going to Oklahoma State. At the time it was a really big deal as I didn't grow up with a lot of money. I grew up working hard to earn everything I had," Hendricks said. "I went to Oklahoma State and eventually won two titles."

Following Hendricks' success at the Division I level came a point where he simply didn't know what to do with his life.

"I really didn't know If I wanted to pursue the Olympics for wrestling. I didn't know what to do with my life. So, I prayed about it. My manager called me a few weeks later and asked if I wanted to fight. I agreed to give it a shot and I went out and got knocked out," Hendricks said, laughing.

"I woke up the next day and got back at it. And, I've been doing it ever since. I think it fits my personality perfectly. I love getting out there and not knowing what's going to happen next. It could all be gone in a matter of seconds," Hendricks said. "The unpredictable aspect and thrill of the sport is appealing to me."

Hendricks found himself making a smooth but rocky transition into the sport of MMA and eventually the UFC.

"I wrestled at 165 pounds in college. I would actually cut from 205 pounds down to 165 and it wasn't really a big deal for me. With me wrestling all of the time, my body got used to it. That's the main different between wrestling and MMA," Hendricks said. "My body was used to the weight cut since I was wrestling every week"

"Now, I only fight every three or four months so its a little more difficult for my body to get used to. I currently walk around at 195 pounds around two weeks out from a fight," Hendricks said.

After winning seven of his eight career UFC bouts, Hendricks is still in the process of becoming recognized as a legitimate contender.

Whether it's "Johny Hendricks" or "Bigg Rigg," Hendricks is well on his way to the top of the 170-pound weight division.

"When we moved to Texas I wanted to get a new truck. I wanted a diesel engine truck to pull stuff behind," Hendricks said. "After every fight I wanted to take my wife and kids somewhere to spend time with them for three to four days."

Hendricks continued: "I needed to get out of town so I could take a break from things or else I'd be in the gym working out all the time. So, that's when I bought the truck. I put big bumpers on it and made it look really nice. One of my friends told me they were going to start calling me 'Bigg Rigg.' So, that's how 'Bigg Rigg' came alive."

Hendricks lived up to his nickname in impressive fashion as he was declared victorious earning his third consecutive win at UFC 141.

Following his knockout victory over Fitch, Hendricks couldn't believe what had happened.

"I actually asked myself, 'Did it really happen?' I trained for four months and Team Takedown gave me the hardest and the best camp I've ever had. I thought it was going to be a three-round war. All the news and media were saying Fitch was already looking into fighting GSP or [Carlos] Condit or [Nick] Diaz. He didn't think I was at the same skill level. But, the Lord blessed with me with a powerful left hand," Hendricks said. "It only takes one punch."

"I told everyone I was going to hit him as hard as I could. It was the first time in my career that I wanted to hit someone as hard as I possibly could. I couldn't wait to hit him before the fight began," Hendricks said.

"When it actually happened, I couldn't believe he fell. I asked myself, 'Did he really just fall down? Should I hit him again?' All of a sudden the ref jumped in and I couldn't believe it was over," Hendricks said. "I did what no one else in the UFC could do."

Hendricks' knockout over Fitch was his fourth KO victory since joining the UFC as he's quickly climbing up the welterweight rankings.

"I feel like I deserve a pretty good reputation. I didn't want to say anything before the fight and let it all take care of itself. I really wanted to go in there and do the best I could and see what happened. After that, that's when I realized I did what no one else could do," Hendricks said. "I believe I'm a top-five welterweight."

While Hendricks' victory will certainly catapult him into an elite category, he's not necessarily looking for a specific next opponent.

In fact, Hendricks doesn't believe in calling out other fighters due to the respect he has for each and every one of them.

"I don't look at who I want to fight. I think looking at that is kind of degrading a fighter. All the 170-pound fighters are great fighters. Whoever the UFC tells me I have to fight then that's who I'm going to fight. I'm not about calling fighters out," Hendricks said. "I have respect for anyone who gets in the Octagon. I don't think I deserve to call anyone out. I would rather get in there and beat them in a respectable way."

Despite his recent success, Hendricks knows full well what it feels like to be defeated, and he believes a fighters' true colors are shown in a time of defeat.

"The only loss of my career came to Rick Story in 2010. I hate the feeling of being defeated. I literally couldn't look at myself in the mirror the next day. I was so disgusted with how I felt," Hendricks said. "But, I never gave up."

"I flew home Sunday and was back in the gym on Monday morning. There are two types of people. Those who let losing get the best of them and those who get better from it. I got back in the gym and trained that much harder so I don't have to ever feel like that again," Hendricks said.

"I found a greater desire to become even better than I was before."


Continue reading Part 2 of this exclusive interview with Johny Hendricks.


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