Welterweight Contender Johny Hendricks Wants to Retire as a Middleweight

Scott HarrisMMA Lead WriterJanuary 18, 2014

Johny Hendricks walks to his corner during a UFC 167 mixed martial arts championship against welterweight bout against Georges St. Pierre, of Canada, on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Las Vegas. St. Pierre won by split decision. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)
Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

Johny Hendricks, who fights in March for the UFC's vacant welterweight title, would like to retire as a middleweight.

That's according to the man himself, who told Elias Cepeda of Yahoo! Sports in an interview published Saturday that he'd be interested in eventually moving up a weight class.

"Yes, once I can get through my weight class, I would love to retire at 185," Hendricks said in the interview.

Obviously, the move is not imminent, and the timing of the announcement is odd, considering that his long-pined-for shot at the 170-pound title is less than two months away. He will face Robbie Lawler on March 15 at UFC 171 for the title, which long-reigning champion Georges St-Pierre vacated last month. Hendricks may face a few more questions about his career plans as UFC 171 approaches.

And he has plenty on his plate already. The 30-year-old Hendricks (15-2) is favored by many to defeat Lawler, but that doesn't change the fact that Lawler is on the greatest run of his pro career. The 31-year-old Lawler (22-9-1) has won his last three, most recently a split-decision win over phenom Rory MacDonald in November at UFC 167.

As it happens, that was also the last time Hendricks fought. Serious MMA fans don't need to be reminded that Hendricks faced St-Pierre at that event, losing a very controversial split decision to the champ. Soon after that contest, St-Pierre took his leave of absence from the sport.

As for a move to middleweight, Hendricks is 5'9", which is not tall, even for a welterweight. (For comparison's sake, B.J. Penn, who has held titles at welterweight and lightweight and is now dropping down to featherweight, is also listed at 5'9".) However, the national college wrestling champion is very stocky for his height and could be an absolute wrecking ball at 185 pounds.

According to the Yahoo! Sports interview, his weight cut would certainly be less severe as a middleweight. He reportedly cut 50 pounds over the course of his training camp to reach the welterweight limit.