Coming into his fight with Martin Kampmann at UFC 154, Johny Hendricks knew he needed to make a statement in order to solidify his position as the No. 1 contender in the welterweight division.
With victories over perennial contenders Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck under his belt, the former NCAA Division I national champion wrestler positioned himself at the top of an increasingly competitive weight class.
While UFC president Dana White never officially deemed the co-main event in Montreal as a title eliminator, "Bigg Rigg" knew if he performed at his best, the results would speak for themselves.
One monster left hand to Kampmann's chin, and the case Hendricks was looking to make was delivered in spectacular fashion.
After meeting in the center of the Octagon and blocking a kick from Kampmann, the Oklahoma State product unleashed a combination that backed his opponent up.
As Hendricks pressed forward, he threw a right hook immediately followed by a left hand that landed flush and put "The Hitman" flat on the deck. It was the perfect shot at the perfect time, and Hendricks capitalized to the fullest on the opportunity presented.
"I knew that punch was something I knew I could land," Hendricks told Bleacher Report. "What it all boils down to is that I knew the punch was something I was going to land and I knew I had the power to end the fight. Whenever it landed and I saw him fall down, it kind of caught me off guard. It was more along the lines where I wasn't so much expecting it, but I knew I could do it.
"The funny thing is that coming off the knockout over Jon Fitch, everyone was saying it was a lucky punch. Everywhere I turned people were saying lucky punch this or lucky punch that and when it happened in this fight, those were the thoughts going through my mind. It was just funny how this fight ended with almost the exact same punch and pretty much the exact same everything. Now I can officially say it wasn't a lucky punch, and hopefully the critics will understand that as well."
While his knockout victory over Kampmann this past Saturday should have locked Hendricks into the next title shot, other factors at play will ultimately help shape the decision.
Leading up to the unification bout between Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit, talk of a potential "super-fight" between GSP and middleweight king Anderson Silva hovered, and it appears to be a possibility for 2013.
With the uncertainty of that fight coming together and Nick Diaz set to make his return early next year, the opportunity Hendricks has dreamed of has yet to gain concrete support from the UFC.
That being said, the 29-year-old believes he's earned the right to compete for the title and is more than content to wait until the opportunity is granted.
"I feel I've earned the opportunity to fight Georges, and that's it," Hendricks said. "I've done everything I could possibly do to earn that title shot. Now it's just time to prepare for it, and that is what I'm going to do. I'm taking two weeks off, spending time with my family, and then I'm going back into the gym like I'm preparing to fight St-Pierre. That is the fight I want, and I'm going to train like it's my next fight.
"I understand why Carlos Condit waited. He wanted to fight Georges St-Pierre, and I totally get that. I'm not mad at him for waiting, but now I know it's my turn. That is all I've been trying to do. I wanted to get my name out there where I get that shot at the title I've been wanting.
"Who knows what is going to happen? I believe I can win, but is it going to happen? I don't know. I just want that chance. I just want the opportunity to go out there and give it my all. The uncertainty is what makes me excited to step into the Octagon every time. You just never know. All you know is that you've prepared yourself the best you can and to go out there and fight to the best of your abilities. That's all I'm looking for in each fight. At the end, I'll either get my hand raised and have the UFC belt around my waist or I don't. All I know is that I've put myself in the right position where I get the shot. Now I'm going to wait and get it done."
Following his spectacular knockout victory over Kampmann, Hendricks turned his attention to the headlining bout on the card between St-Pierre and Condit.
Plenty of questioned swirled around St-Pierre's return after a 20-month layoff due to a knee injury, but the champion erased all doubts as he earned the unanimous-decision victory.
It has been Hendrick's dream to fight St-Pierre, and he was excited to see the champion return in top form.
"It was great to see Georges come back strong," Hendricks said. "That was awesome, and I was glad to see it because I want to fight him and I want him to be at his best. That is what the competition is about to me and what it all boils down to. I believe that I can defeat Georges. I believe I have the tools to take the belt from him. Seeing how he came out strong was great.
"That is the guy I was hoping came back, because if he doesn't come back as strong and I beat him, then people are going to have something to say. I wanted him to come back strong because if I do get a chance to fight him, I can look across the cage and I know I'm fighting the best in the world. If I defeat him there will be no excuses."
While the decision as to who will face St-Pierre next will likely take some time, it will not stop Hendricks from beginning the preparations for the biggest fight of his life.
He understands what happens next is beyond his control and takes comfort in the fact that the business he did have the power to handle was taken care of in impressive fashion.
Hendricks has only been competing as a professional for five years and is in the process of solidifying himself as one of the best 170-pound fighters on the planet.
Thanks to a five-fight win streak and victories over several of the world's top welterweights, Hendricks is standing on the doorstep of much bigger things.
He feels his success is the result of surrounding himself with positive people and credits his family, Team Takedown and nutrition guru Mike Dolce for making the difficult journey up the ladder that much easier.
"The good Lord is blessing me, and I'm very grateful," Hendricks said. "I had a guy tell me a long time ago that you should surround yourself with the type of people you want to be. I want to be a good person. I want to be happy in life. There are many things that go into that, but I wake up every day and I enjoy my job. I wake up every day and enjoy the people I surround myself with. I think that is a big part of life.
"Mike Dolce makes things a lot easier on me. I'm going to be with him until I retire. I tell people all the time that working with Mike allows me to wake up on fight day and not have to worry about a thing. Dolce takes care of me. I don't have to worry about my weight. I don't have to worry about anything except my fight. That takes a huge load off of me.
"I feel great, but I'm not on top of the world just yet," Hendricks added. "I know this fight put me one step closer, and hopefully my next fight is for the title. I might have been overlooked before, but not anymore. I think that fight on Saturday made it known I'm the No. 1 contender and have what it takes to fight Georges St-Pierre."
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