Johny Hendricks has a fantastic beard.
This cannot be denied. Hendricks has one of the manliest beards in sports, if not the entire world. It's part of his fight-camp rituals, one of those quirks that only fighters can get away with. It is, I dare say, one of the things I enjoy most about mixed martial arts.
It's not easy growing an epic beard. As Hendricks told me during a live chat on Wednesday afternoon, his wife plays a big part in the process.
"First off, you have to have a good wife that doesn't care if you have facial hair," Hendricks said. "And she does this oil treatment for her hair. If my beard starts feeling too rough for her, she puts the oil in it.
"It's a little weird, but she does all she can to make sure it's good for her."
The biggest night of Hendricks' (and his beard's) professional mixed martial arts career comes this Saturday night when he faces Josh Koscheck in the co-main event of UFC on FOX 3.
And if the stakes weren't already high enough—Koscheck is, after all, Hendricks' most high-profile opponent to date, and by a wide margin—UFC president Dana White added a little fuel to the fire when he announced during a Wednesday conference call that Hendricks will be in line for a title shot if he beats Koscheck.
It's thrilling news for Hendricks, who is understandably amped up for the fight.
"I think it's awesome. It's great news. You can't get more excited than that," Hendricks said. "I get to fight a tough dude like Koscheck, and then a title shot if I win? It's great."
Hendricks is focused squarely on Koscheck, and rightly so. Both men are former standout collegiate wrestlers who have developed excellent power in their hands. Hendricks and Koscheck are alike in so many ways, which is one of the many things that makes this fight so intriguing.
But if Hendricks does get past Koscheck, will he feel any pressure to call out interim champion Carlos Condit on live television?
"Sometimes you do have to make your stand if you really want something," Hendricks said. "The UFC wants to put on shows that the fans want to see, and if the fans want to see you fight someone, that's what's going to happen.
"I never call anyone out because I have too much respect for everyone. It's hard enough just getting in the Octagon. If you call somebody out and you end up losing, it looks worse. For example, say I win and I call out for a title shot, then that's what I have to do. If not for a title shot situation, I don't think you should. I let my managers do that."
I can hear the excitement in Hendricks' voice. He realizes that he's finally reached a different level in the UFC, and that Saturday night represents a chance to establish himself near the top of the welterweight division.
The idea of fighting on network television—and being a featured star on that televised fight card—didn't really settle in until Hendricks saw himself in a UFC on FOX commercial while watching NASCAR.
"I think the most excited I got was when I was watching NASCAR last week or the week before," Hendricks said. "They showed my name on a commercial, that I would be fighting. I think that was the most excited I've been."
To Hendricks, appearing on a NASCAR broadcast means he's made it. Saturday night, he has a chance to prove to UFC fans that he'll be sticking around for awhile.
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