In his most private of moments, Johny Hendricks has envisioned standing inside the Octagon as Bruce Buffer announces him as the new UFC Welterweight champion as president Dana White affixes the title belt around his waist.
“I have. I’m not going to lie. I have,” Hendricks said of a dream that could very well become reality Saturday night, when he will face champion Georges St-Pierre for the title in the main event of UFC 167.
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“I’m super stoked,” Hendricks told us by phone while heading to The Palms in Las Vegas following a workout Wednesday night. “The card is so amazing. And not only that, it’s the 20th anniversary, you know what I mean? The 20th anniversary, that’s amazing in itself that the UFC picked me to be on it. It’s very humbling that UFC picked someone like me to compete.”
The reason the UFC selected Hendricks (15-1) picked to be half of the main event is simple: Hendricks has earned the title shot.
He comes into Saturday’s title fight having won his last six fights, including a unanimous decision over Carlos Condit in the semi-main event of UFC 158. Not coincidentally, St-Pierre (24-2-0) also fought on that show, retaining his title in a unanimous decision over Nick Diaz.
“I am as good as he is,” Hendricks said. “That’s the way I’m looking at it.”
Since defeating Matt Serra at UFC 83 to unify the Welterweight Title — St-Pierre beat Matt Hughes at UFC 79 to win the interim title — St-Pierre has successfully defended the championship in eight straight fights. In doing so, he has specialized in eradicating an opponent’s strength. Just ask Jake Shields, whose jiu-jitsu was completely negated over the course of their title fight at UFC 129 by St-Pierre’s jab-heavy offense.
Hendricks has become one of the most devastating knockout specialists in UFC. Five of his 10 wins in the UFC have been knockouts or technical knockouts. But Hendricks isn’t a one-trick pony. He was an accomplished wrestler at Oklahoma State where he was a four-time All-American and a two-time National Champion.
Hendricks is steadfast in his belief that he could, quite literally, wrestle the title away should St-Pierre focus solely on eliminating his striking.
“I hope it gets overlooked, because the way I use my wrestling to get me where I’m at, I had to get people to fear my hands,” Hendricks said. “And it makes my wrestling that much easier, which is great. Everything he can do, I can do. That’s sort of the way I’m going into this fight.”
The first UFC event was held at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver on Nov. 12, 1993. That show was based on determining the pre-eminent combat style over the course of a night-long tournament. Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner Royce Gracie submitted boxer Art Jimmerson, mixed martial artist Ken Shamrock and kickboxer Gerard Gordeau to win the eight-man tournament.
Follow MMA writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.