When you have doubts about yourself, the best way to overcome those doubts is to face them head on. Johny Hendricks had that problem in his fight in May with Josh Koscheck. That doubt is now gone, as he heads into UFC 154 in the co-main event against Martin Kampmann in a pivotal welterweight bout.
UFC 154 takes place this Saturday night from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and the main card airs live on pay-per-view starting at 10 p.m. Eastern.
Questions were surrounding Hendricks when faced off with former welterweight title contender Josh Koscheck at UFC on Fox 3 in May. Was Hendricks' knockout victory over Jon Fitch in twelve seconds at UFC 141 a fluke? Could he win another big fight? Hendricks put all of those questions to rest, as he defeated Koscheck by split decision. The Oklahoma native feels more relaxed for this fight than the Fox show.
"I feel more relaxed now than the Fox show because I knew that fight (with Koscheck) could be a number one contender's fight and Josh was a tough opponent," Hendricks told Bleacher Report. "I knew he was a good wrestler and had knockout power. That's scary going into a fight like that. I knew it was going to be a battle. I never get nervous.
"With Josh though, it was a little bit different. I knew he had just changed gyms, knew he was going to train harder and wanting to win that much more. I knew that I had to prepare myself for the best Josh Koscheck. I was wondering if I was ready for that next step in my career. I needed to test myself with Jon Fitch. Now that I got to test myself against Josh Koscheck, I'm like, "Ok, now I'm ready for that next step."
Should winner of Hendricks and Kampmann get the winner of GSP/Condit?
With the Koscheck fight done and having reflected on the fight, Hendricks felt Koscheck was a litmus test to prove he can hang at this level.
"Everything is a test in my book," Hendricks states. "Everything is a challenge. Kampmann poses a lot of challenges, but I'm not as worried about him as I was against Josh. I didn't know if I was ready. You believe you are doing everything right. Your doing this and your doing that and all of a sudden it comes to be that time, you sort of question that.
"You ask yourself, "Am I ready for that next level? "
"You get that victory and your level of confidence gets turned up a little more. You start to believe in yourself that much more and then you start training that much harder. You know that you are one step away from a title shot. I keep pushing myself and the next thing you know I am about to fight on the same card as Georges and Carlos."
Martin Kampmann is on a three fight winning streak having defeated Rick Story, Thiago Alves and Jake Ellenberger to get to this fight. Hendricks feels Kampmann got lucky along the way, but knows the Las Vegas native poses a lot of problems.
"He (Kampmann) was lucky to submit Thiago Alves," Hendricks states. "If the fight would have went to the judges' scorecards, Alves wins the fight. Kampmann's a tough fighter. You have to put him out. You can't make those mistakes against him. You saw with Thiago and saw that with Elllenberger. They had him hurt and they tried to do something else.
"With Kampmann, you have to make sure every punch counts. Don't start flurrying, make every shot count."
With all of that being said about Kampmann, the former four-time All-American collegiate wrestler from Oklahoma State feels Koscheck is a tougher fight than Kampmann.
"I think Koscheck was a heck of a lot tougher opponent," Hendricks states. I know Kampmann's tough, don't get me wrong. I'm training though like I'm fighting Josh again. I have trained with Kampmann, but never fought him. So I trained like I just got done with the Koscheck fight. That's how I am training for this fight with Kampmann.
"Then after this fight, if I win, I'll be training like I did for this fight for GSP or Condit."
No decision has been made whether Hendricks/Kampmann will determine a number one contender to face the winner of the main event between Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit. There has been speculation that if St-Pierre wins, a superfight with middleweight champion Anderson Silva will take place. Hendricks doesn't know what will happen if he's victorious, but feels different things could play out for whoever wins the fight.
"There's a couple different ways you can look at it," Hendricks states. "What if the UFC tells me, "Johny you aren't ready for GSP. We will give you a little time off to prepare for GSP as he fights Anderson Silva."
"The UFC can also if Kampmann wins, "We don't want to give Kampmann this title shot just yet as well."
Hendricks feels the main event is going to come down to how healthy St-Pierre's reconstructed knee holds up and Condit's takedown defense. "Bigg Rigg" doesn't know who is going to win, and really doesn't know who will emerge victorious. All he is focused on is winning against Kampmann and getting a shot at the belt.
"It's tough decision right now because I don't know how GSP really is feeling," Hendricks states. "We don't know how Carlos Condit's takedown defense is. It has probably gotten better, but it really depends on GSP's knee. If it has gotten better like I think it has, then he is going to take Condit down.
"If he is not going to be able to take him down, then I think Carlos Condit has the better standup.
"I don't have a preference on who wins the main event. I just want a shot at the belt. Whoever has the belt, that's who I want to face."
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.
You can also follow me on Twitter @fightclubchi.