St-Pierre first got the rumor-mill going when he posted this photo, captioned "Working on putting on some muscle mass," onto his Instagram profile:
MMAfighting’s Ariel Helwani later confirmed on Twitter.
It turns out that current UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks doesn’t care—there’s no way he sees himself losing to St-Pierre, 200 pounds or not, for a second time.
He told MMA Fight Corner (via MMAFighting):
“I’ve heard GSP’s been watching my fights. Re-watching stuff because he’s going to have to put himself in more danger to hurt me, to mess up my game. That puts him in trouble. He’s been able to get away with so much because he’s been able to out-wrestle people. He can’t out-wrestle me. He can’t out-strength me. No matter how much weight he puts on. I think he’s at 201 pounds right now. They said he’s beefing up because he felt weak against me. He’s going to feel weak, even if he’s at 201.”
It's difficult to imagine St-Pierre any bigger than he was when he first fought Hendricks. Already known as one of the bigger, more muscular fighters at 170-pounds, it may not be ideal for St-Pierre to add all that weight and still be athletic enough to perform at welterweight.
No worries, though—there's another division that could suit St-Pierre and his newfound muscle mass just fine.
St-Pierre always cited the need to increase muscle mass as one of the major reasons a superfight between he and Anderson Silva never came to fruition. He was in the midst of one of the most dominant championship runs the UFC has ever seen and simply didn't have the time to walk away and train for a move up in weight class.
Walking away from the sport and tearing his ACL might just be what St-Pierre needed to finally make the move to middleweight.
Sure, St-Pierre would be giving up quite a bit of height in moving up to middleweight, but the Firas Zahabi-trained fighter shouldn't have too much trouble coping with height, so long as he retains most of his speed and tactical prowess.
A move up in division probably wouldn't sit well with Hendricks, considering he still hasn't technically defeated the Canadian superstar. But, while Hendricks is cognitive of the fact he didn’t see his hand raised in his bout with St-Pierre back at UFC 167 in November, he feels that the way he fought against St-Pierre warranted a new champion.
“There’s a sense of me that I sort of felt like Robbie Lawler was my title defense because of the Georges St-Pierre fight,” Hendricks said of his victory over Lawler for the vacant UFC welterweight title. “That’s the way I’m looking at it. It’s not technically my title defense but I’ve got the same mindset.”
In reality, it's probably in Hendricks' best interest to simply move on from that St-Pierre fight—he's got a torn bicep and a flock of new challengers to worry about.
Lawler and Matt Brown are scheduled to face off on July 26 to determine the No. 1 contender upon Hendricks' return. Rory MacDonald just proved to the world that he doesn't always have to sit back and coast in his victory against Tyron Woodley. Even Woodley, who woefully underperformed in his last bout, is taking no time off to redeem himself in his next fight against Dong Hyun Kim—a welterweight currently riding a four-fight winning streak with back-to-back TKO finishes.
The overflowing crop of challengers hasn't stopped Hendricks from thinking about certain fighters more than others, though.
Hendricks is currently on the mend from a torn bicep he suffered before his title fight with Lawler. He won the title, but not at full strength —part of him wonders what could have been had he been closer to 100 percent at UFC 171.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’ll throw with whoever’s the No. 1 contender. I’ll fight them. I’m not going to run away from that, but there’s a part of me that wants to see how I can do against Robbie Lawler, healthy. Then again, there’s part of me that wants to sort of train for Matt Brown or Rory MacDonald or whoever else is out there.”
Kristian Ibarra is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He also serves as the sports editor at San Diego State University's student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. Follow him on Twitter at @Kristian_Ibarra for all things MMA.
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