Johny Hendricks will fight Martin Kampmann on November 17, 2012 at UFC 154 in a title eliminator to determine who will get the next shot at the UFC welterweight title. But the “what if” factors surrounding the UFC’s welterweight division have kept everyone, including Johny, guessing what could happen next. Johny broke down possible scenarios for the UFC welterweight division’s future, in addition to talking abut his upcoming fight with Kampmann on MMA Fight Corner on Wednesday night.
Hendricks last fought at UFC on FOX 3 and pulled off a split decision victory over Josh Koscheck. Prior to that win, the signature win that put him in the contenders circle was his 12 second knockout over Jon Fitch that earned Knockout of the Night honors at UFC 141.
When the fight goes down in Montreal, Canada, Hendricks and Kampmann will be battling it out to determine who’s next to challenge for the UFC welterweight title. In the main event that night, Georges St. Pierre and Carlos Condit will fight to unify the UFC welterweight belt. If GSP wins, it would appear that his next fight could be a superfight against Anderson Silva. If Condit wins, Hendricks or Kampmann may finally get a title shot after waiting for what has seemed like an eternity for their opportunity at the welterweight strap.
Former NCAA championship wrestler Hendricks has won his last 4 fights in a row. Kampmann has won his last three in a row and knocked out Jake Ellenberger in June at the Ultimate Fighter Live Finale to earn his place as a top contender. When Hendricks first began MMA training, he started out in Las Vegas, NV working out at Xtreme Couture before heading to train with Team Takedown in Texas. At Xtreme Couture, he learned and developed in MMA with Kampmann as a teammate.
“He’s a good guy. He’s a good fighter. He knows how I train somewhat,” Hendricks sais of his early days training with Kampmann. “I developed a lot when I left Las Vegas, but he still knows what kind of a person I am and how hard I train and all those kinds of things and that’s really fun to know. Fighting somebody you know has always kind of been exciting to me.”
Hendricks is also pumped for the opportunity to fight on the same night the title fight is happening. “To be fighting the same night as them, is actually really cool because it’s sort of like a tournament. It’s a little tournament and the winners of each one get to face each other.”
By time St. Pierre steps into the Octagon against Condit, it will have been close to 18 months since his last fight at UFC 129. Condit won the interim title in February at UFC 143, but hasn’t challenged anyone since winning the title. With the whole title picture having been on hold for some time, Hendricks gave his take on who could emerge victorious.
“I think, Carlos Condit, his takedowns have improved a little bit, but have they improved enough to stop GSP? I don’t know. Carlos Condit is great on his back, but GSP doesn’t spend a lot of time in the closed guard, he’s always trying to pass. Carlos Condit has also proved that he has knock out power, he’s very, very dangerous with the clinch, his knees – and also, he’s proved that he can dance around. He can move, he doesn’t just have to stay in front of you where a lot of people tend to be for GSP to take them down. I don’t care who wins. My thought is, I gotta beat Kampmann to get what I want.”
Despite having trained with Kampmann in the past, Johny has no intention of letting any feelings he has for his former training partner affect how he performs. “I’ve always trained wrestling, you always compete against your friends. I’ve always done that my whole entire life and this is no different. I don’t think he’s changed that much and I don’t know, I’m just sort of excited. Like I said, I’ve trained with this guy for awhile, knows how I fight, I’m pretty sure he’s done some studying on it and he knows how I train and that’s exciting to train for.”
When Johny came onto the scene in MMA, he hadn’t developed a well rounded skill set and admitted that back then, Kampmann got the best of him. Their early sparring sessions he said didn’t go “too good.” He added that Martin’s experience at the time was superior to his. “He was already been doing it for what, 10 years, the Dutch style kickboxing for a long time. Whenever I came in, you’re right, all I was was a wrestler. I got my butt whupped everyday by those guys and that taught me some valuable lessons.”
Since moving on and developing beyond his early days at Xtreme Couture, Johny’s also proven he has knockout power which he hopes is enough to finish Kampmann. “I think my striking’s good enough now because I’ve been in there with some of the best guys at welterweight. Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, these guys have been up at the very top. I feel like I’ve eaten some of the hardest punches I’m probably gonna eat from somebody and that’s from Josh Koscheck. He’s a heavy handed dude,” Hendricks said. “I feel really confident with my hands, I know I still need to improve and that’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what I’m really excited to see. Everything that I’ve been working on to improve myself. Just because people are always like ‘Johny you’re hands are getting better’ they’re not to where I’m satisfied. And that’s what you gotta do everyday, you gotta forget the past, yesterday was the past, move towards the future and that’s what I’m doing.”
So what does the future hold for the UFC welterweight division? With UFC President Dana White and Silva’s camp talking about a superfight between GSP and Silva, Hendricks hopes he isn’t left hanging on what happens next for him in the division if he gets past Kampmann. “It leaves me waiting to see what happens,” Hendricks said of the possibility that St. Pierre retains the title and goes off to fight Silva.
Hypothetically, if the superfight happens and GSP is still the champion of the 170 division at the time, Hendricks said he would feel as though he was shunned of his opportunity to fight for a title. If GSP leaves the division for a superfight, Hendricks said he’d wait for him to return to defend the belt to finally get his chance at the title.
“This will be my second fight knowing that I almost had that shot, and I’m definitely going to wait because at that point, I will have beaten everybody in the top five, almost, except for one. And if Carlos Condit gets beat, then he gets knocked out of there. Right now, the title shot is awesome, I plan on going out there and winning, but I don’t want to get too focused on that superfight because that is something that could happen – very easily could happen. And then I heard that GSP said he wanted to wait 6 months so he could beef up. So, then it’s ok, I got 6 months to wait. So, it kind of puts us on hold again. In which, I don’t really think that’s going to happen, I hope not, at least.”
With the highly anticipated return of GSP and the whole welterweight division having been on hold since his injury, Johny is voting no to a superfight. “No, I hope it doesn’t because if there were the same contenders going at 170, I mean the same guys back and forth, then ok, do the superfight. But now there’s about to be new, different, a couple other people coming up. A couple other different fighters are coming up with a shot maybe at beating GSP. I think he’s got to get through those guys, or give up the belt and go to 185. He just put the whole thing on hold for what, a year and half, 14 months.”
When it comes down to it, Hendricks just wants what’s fair, what he feels he’s earned. “I’m the little kid in Willie Wonka. I have my ticket and I’m going to make sure I do everything in my power to keep that ticket. If they did make an interim belt, of course I’d jump on that in a heartbeat.”
If GSP leaves the division for six months or longer to prepare for a superfight, another interim belt in the 170 division could be interesting, especially with Nick Diaz coming back into the fold by February 2013. When Diaz is eligible to fight again, Hendricks said he could see the UFC giving him an interim title shot. “He is a tough fighter. Usually they don’t let somebody come in for an interim belt off a loss. His suspension is almost up by the beginnning of the year, by that time, it might happen. He might get a fight in…maybe early February, and then that could be a good possibility because if he beats the next guy he faces, then yeah, I can see that happening.”
Regardless of what could hypothetically happen, Hendricks has kept his focus on the immediate future. He doesn’t think he needs to be flashy to prove who he is to anyone. All he wants is to bring home a win and isn’t concerned with how it does it. “If I go out there and try to tell myself that I have to show-off, showcase what I have, I feel like I’ve done that in my last couple of fights. I’ve proved I can be up there with the best of them. If I go out there and I think I have to do something spectacular to get that title shot, then I might miss, I make myself vulnerable. I might go out there and do something stupid. Right now, the only thing that really matters is the W,” Hendricks stated. “The most important thing is win first and everything else is second.”
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