UFC welterweight contender Johny Hendricks has taken the long journey up the rankings toward an eventual shot at the 170-pound championship.
At 8-1 in the Octagon, and although Hendricks has beaten some of the very best in the world along the way, the journey got a bit longer last week when UFC President Dana White announced that Hendricks will still have to win one more fight before getting a title shot.
After defeating Josh Koscheck at UFC on FOX 3 in May, Hendricks was promised an immediate shot at the title. Unfortunately, with champion Georges St-Pierre still on the shelf and interim champion Carlos Condit content with waiting for St-Pierre's return, the UFC was put in a very tough spot with Hendricks.
Rather than having him wait potentially up to a year for a title fight against the winner of GSP-Condit, the UFC opted to put him in a fight of his own on the same night, at UFC 154, against fellow top contender Martin Kampmann.
"It is what it is," Hendricks told MMAFighting.com in a recent interview. "I feel like I fought the best guys at 170 in our division and I've won, but it looks like I have to get through one more person, and that's just the way it goes. You can either sit here and complain about it or you can sit there and do your best to win it."
Since the beginning of 2011, Hendricks has been on an impressive streak, winning each of his four fights, all of which came against very credible opponents. His most recent two victories were the biggest of his career as he defeated perennial top contenders Jon Fitch and Koscheck in back-to-back fights.
While he has no problem getting back in the cage and fighting Kampmann, it's hard for him not to think about the opportunity that should have been his.
"Of course you're disappointed. You get promised a title shot and then something happens and it doesn't happen. But then again, that's the nature of this business. There's always good fights going on, you just have to win each one."
With St-Pierre still out of action due to a torn ACL which has kept him out of action since mid-October 2011, Hendricks is still holding out hope that he might be able to sneak into the title picture sometime before the end of 2012.
"I'm training for a five-round fight because if one of them gets hurt, I got to take my opportunity when I can," he said.
If Hendricks can defeat Kampmann, it will mark the third straight top five-ranked welterweight who he has defeated to get into the title picture. At that point, there really won't be anything left for him to do than finish off his journey to the top with a title fight against St-Pierre or Condit.