While Johny Hendricks has certainly learned many valuable lessons and memories over the course of his 2.5-year career in the UFC, none come to mind more than his Octagon debut against Amir Sadollah at UFC 101.
"The most memorable experience of my career was the first time I walked out to the Octagon. I don't know why, but I felt like it was where I belonged. Inside that Octagon and being on such a high stage was one of the greatest moments ever. Hearing everyone cheer against me was great," Hendricks said. "Nothing gets you more fired up than when the whole crowd wants you to lose."
"I can remember everything. I'm usually holding conversations the whole way up to the fight. Everyone is always yelling at me to get focused," Hendricks said, laughing. "I want to enjoy every moment because you don't know how long you're getting to do this for. So, every chance I get I want to make sure it's the best I can do."
"That's something I can pass onto my kids. If the good Lord blesses with me with a little boy, then I can pass along the memories to him," Hendricks said.
Despite many uncertainties and an unclear picture of what the future may hold, Hendricks is determined to cherish every moment and leave a lasting impression those he leaves behind.
"It's awesome that I get to wake up everyday and fight for a living. I get to do something that I truly love. The only bad part is you don't know when you're going to lose. You don't know who you're going to lose to. But, you got to pick yourself back up and get that much better," Hendricks said. "Fighting and winning is easy."
"In this sport, you have to work really, really hard. You have to work that much harder to get your hand raised than the guy you're fighting against . Life's too short to do something you regret," Hendricks said. "As soon as it feels like a chore or a job, then I'm done."
One of the ways Hendricks can solidify his legacy is by simply showing love to each and every individual he encounters in his journey through life.
"People can be remembered for a lot of things. People will remember that you won the belt and that's one thing I want to accomplish. But, the question I often ask myself is, 'How do you act outside the Octagon?'"
"I want my kids to look back and see the person I was. I want people to tell my kids that I was one of the nicest guys they've ever met," Hendricks said. "Not only do I want to be remembered as a fighter, but a person people could rely on."
Hendricks continued: "You don't know what the next person is going through. You're never going to know when you're going to need something. You never know who you're going to meet. People will remember you for how you treated them. Trust me, they'll remember you. Being a good person goes a long, long way."
Through spectacular wins, the ups and downs of life and a lifelong journey, Hendricks believes none of it would be possible without a reliance on God.
"I went to college and kind of walked away from my faith, as a lot of people do. I found myself growing closer to Him midway through my stay at Oklahoma State," Hendricks said. "I went through a rough time in my life and He was carrying me through it."
"I got out of college and started going to church again and saw my relationship with God continue to grow. I was at a point in my life where I needed help. I felt like there was something more out there," Hendrick said.
"I felt alone and that's when I became the closest to him. It wasn't until I was 25 years old when I began to understand how God was blessing me all along," Hendricks said. "It wasn't material possessions or anything like that, but waking up with an understanding that there's going to be tough times in life, but He's always there."
"Everyday I try to wake up and go to bed as happy as I can be. I often think back to that one day where I gave it all to God. My life has changed so much since that day even though I still go through tough times," Hendricks said.
Not too long after Hendricks' life change came his wife, whom he is happily married to today. Following his marriage came the greatest gifts of Hendricks' life: "I have two little girls who I cherish more than anything. One is 26 months and the other is five months old. It's the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me."
"I thank God every morning that I can wake up and see my kids smiling," Hendricks said. "No matter how bad my day was, it all goes away when I see my daughter running towards me with open arms."
"It melts my heart. It keeps me level. I do everything for my wife and my kids. One day the good Lord could bless me with a little boy. Even if he doesn't I have so much joy and love for the family I already have. Nothing beats coming home from a rough day and spending time with my daughters," Hendricks said. "Seeing them laugh, that's the greatest joy in life."
"I would rather be a dad than a fighter any day of the year. That's who I really am."
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