UFC welterweight contender Johny Hendricks is currently in the middle of a public relations battle about drug testing prior to his bout against Georges St-Pierre at UFC 167 when all he really wants to do is prepare and build the anticipation for the biggest fight of his career.
The questions were raised recently when St-Pierre signed on with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) to do additional testing ahead of his fight with Hendricks. The welterweight champion invited Hendricks to participate as well, even going as far as offering to pay for the challenger's portion of the cost for the program.
Everything seemed ready to happen until Hendricks' management team was made aware that VADA was footing the bill for GSP's testing, which contradicted the earlier statements that he was paying for the program himself. A storm of controversy followed after Hendricks and his team decided to turn to the Nevada State Athletic Commission (who will oversee the bout at UFC 167) for advice on the matter, and they were referred to WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) for testing instead.
WADA is the group that oversees the standards for drug testing for the Olympics and other major sports across the world.
Hendricks' camp then felt burned by VADA after an anonymous report was released stating the former NCAA champion hadn't signed up for testing ahead of his bout against St-Pierre in November. While there was never a direct statement from the company about the matter, the writing was on the wall that by not signing on for testing with VADA, Hendricks had to be hiding something, right?
"That's what I was telling people. No one's ever accused me of being on steroids," Hendricks said on Monday. "If I was on steroids I'd probably be fighting 205 or heavyweight, and I probably couldn't wipe my own ass. That's probably what would happen if I got on steroids. But here's the thing, I just want to be able to do it on my own.
"I don't want to sit there and say I was the pound-for-pound, best champion there ever was, but I had some help. Not only that but I want to grow to 60, 70, 80, 90 years old, I want to see my kids and them grow up and my kids' grandkids. That's my goal in life, and if I put stuff in my body I may not make those ages."
Hendricks is no stranger to stringent drug testing after being a high-level wrestler at Oklahoma State, where he was an NCAA champion for the program as well. He routinely underwent drug testing, never tested positive for anything and has never tested positive for any drug during any of his MMA fights either.
"In college what they do is sometimes they call you at 6:30 in the morning, you have to be there at 7 or 7:30 at the latest. You have to be in there and you have to do the drug test," Hendricks explained. "If you no-show that's called a failure and you get suspended for two or three events. If you no-show again, they automatically suspend you for the semester. So I know what it's like to get random drug tested. I got it through my whole career at Oklahoma State."
The point Hendricks is trying to make is that he's never avoided additional drug testing, he just doesn't want to work with a group like VADA.
VADA has come under fire previously for an inflammatory statement that was posted on their website about former UFC interim heavyweight champion Shane Carwin. The company took down the article and claimed it was posted by an intern, who was then fired for the action.
UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione also passed on dealing with VADA prior to his fight last year against Roy Nelson at the Ultimate Fighter 16 finale show after not having a positive interaction with the company. He even sent Hendricks a message via Twitter showing support for his decision to turn down VADA's testing.
Hendricks wants to make it very clear—he's all for additional drug testing, and they can test him as often as they want, as many times as they want leading up to the fight. He just wants the people overseeing the procedures to be completely trustworthy, and according to Hendricks that's not VADA.
"We talked to the Nevada State Commission and they had nothing but good things to say about WADA," Hendricks said. "They've had some run-ins with VADA, and Matt Mitrione and some guys there's things that happened that questioned you to go there. Here I am on the biggest fight in my career throwing my trust into GSP that he's not in with him. Why is he pushing VADA so hard? There's a lot of red flags to throw up for me. That's why I said I'm not going to play into your game. If you want to test me, I will gladly do the Nevada State Commission whatever they give me or I want to do WADA.
"I know I'm going to pass it whether they come three times or they come 10 times because that's my goal. I'm going to crush it."
As for his opponent, Hendricks isn't in the business of throwing out wild accusations saying that St-Pierre is cheating or ever has cheated in the past. When it's all said and done, Hendricks could really care less if the UFC champion is on some kind of performance enhancing drug because it's not going to save him when they're in the cage together at UFC 167.
"It never entered my mind," Hendricks said about St-Pierre potentially cheating. "Here's the thing—I don't care if he's on anything, I really don't. Because I'm needing him to show up November 16. If I start accusing him of something, and if he doesn't want to fight me, he's the champ he can say 'oh I'm injured' or this happened, or that happened. There's a lot of things that you can sit there and make argument to.
"When he first made the announcement (about VADA) I was like I don't know if I want to come back with (saying) anything because I know I'm not on anything but I don't want to run him off. I need him to show up that night, and legal or not, I'm not saying he isn't and I'm not saying he is, but legal or not, I need him to show up so I can get a shot at that (belt) he carries around."
At this point, Hendricks is moving past all the drug testing talk because he just wants to get ready for the fight. If WADA shows up at his doorstep tomorrow to take a test, he'll submit to it and has no doubts he'll pass with flying colors.
The biggest disappointment about this entire situation is that Hendricks knows he's part of something special coming up in November as part of the UFC's 20th anniversary show, where he will be in the main event against St-Pierre. For the last week, instead of focusing on the fight and the promotion of the show, he's dealt with nothing but questions about drug testing, and in that sense it's taking away from how big he wants his fight with St-Pierre to be come November 16.
"He's had four fights to try and clear his name. All of a sudden here it is the 20th anniversary of the UFC, and instead of us talking about how amazing this fight card is and how sweet it is to get this title shot I've been sitting here acting like I've been accused of taking drugs for the last 10 years," Hendricks said. "I feel like I've been cheated on that. This card, I'm super pumped to be on and here we're discussing drug testing and that kind of sucks."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.