Johny Hendricks doesn't blame Georges St-Pierre for leaving the UFC, and quite frankly, he doesn't care.
As crazy as it sounds, the top welterweight contender’s goal was never about beating St-Pierre, the greatest welterweight in MMA history.
Back in November, Hendricks lost a controversial split decision to St-Pierre, and oddly, he hasn't been screaming to the high heavens for an immediate rematch.
During an interview with Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, Hendricks explained that everything he has accomplished up until this point was just a means to come away with the true prize, the UFC welterweight title:
No, [I’m not surprised he left]. He knew that he was going to have to fight me again, and that might not even be it. He has done some great things in this sport. He’s done what he wanted to do, and I don’t blame him for leaving. But you know this whole time is that I wasn't fighting GSP. I was fighting the belt. I want that belt more than anything.
In a media call on Friday, St-Pierre announced that he would be vacating the UFC title and going on an indefinite hiatus.
It often times gets lost in the discussion of money and fame that there is a lot of responsibility that comes with being a world champion. St-Pierre, who is one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, has carried that burden for over five years.
He is no longer the hungry contender getting down on his knees and begging Matt Hughes for a title shot.
The roles have been reversed, and now Hendricks is the guy looking to immortalize his career and provide a better life for his family.
UFC President Dana White announced during the media call that Hendricks will receive his second crack at the UFC title on March 15 at UFC 171. He is slated to step into the cage against resurging MMA journeyman Robbie Lawler in Dallas, Texas at the American Airlines Center.
There is still a chance St-Pierre returns to fighting after he sorts things out in his personal life. What could possibly be a bigger dream fight or storyline than Hendricks as the UFC champion facing a returning St-Pierre?
While Hendricks is open to the possibility of a rematch, he won’t hold his breath. St-Pierre has done great things, but for Hendricks, it will always and forever be about the UFC title, not an individual:
It’s never about the individual, Hendricks told Helwani. It’s always been about what the individual has and everything else that goes with it and that’s in my thought process this whole time. GSP has done amazing things. He was a great champion, and hopefully in return, I can do the same. … If I fight GSP again, I fight him again, and if I don’t, I don’t. My world doesn't revolve around him. It revolves around that belt.
If he wins the title, Hendricks has an opportunity to start from scratch and build a new legacy in the UFC welterweight division. As for St-Pierre, Hendricks’ world will always revolve around him whether he likes it or not.
Until St-Pierre officially announces his retirement from MMA, many will still consider him to be the best welterweight in the world. For now, Hendricks only cares about winning the UFC title.
But after a few defenses, it shouldn't come as any surprise if he comes knocking on St-Pierre’s door for a rematch.