This past Saturday at UFC 133, welterweight contender Johny Hendricks made his anticipated return to Philadelphia after winning his UFC debut there two years ago. The bearded Oklahoman defeated fellow wrestler Mike Pierce via split decision on the preliminary card.
Hendricks recently spoke with MMAFrenzy.com about his UFC 133 win, the improvements he has made in his training, and his return to the Octagon.
MMAFrenzy: Firstly, Johny, congratulations on the win. Tell us about your thoughts on your fight with Mike Pierce at UFC 133.
Johny Hendricks: My fight with Pierce went exactly how I thought it would. To be honest, the split decision shocked me. I felt I easily won the first two rounds, and the third round was his. But you never know what the judges are looking for. What if a judge didn’t see one thing that you know you did better? You never know what the judges are looking for.
MMAFrenzy: Philadelphia was the home of your first win, a TKO win over Amir Sadollah at UFC 101. How excited were you to return two years later?
Hendricks: I was ecstatic to return to Philadelphia. The people treated me so great. I came here two years ago, and they put me up against Amir, who lives much closer to the area. The people treated me great that time, and even more this time around.
MMAFrenzy: You’ve faced wrestlers in 3 of your last 4 matchups. Are you happy with facing guys of a similar style, or do you want to take on guys with different fighting styles/backgrounds?
Hendricks: I’m facing a lot of the toughest guys in the division, top 10-15 welterweights in guys like Mike Pierce and Rick Story. No matter their style, they are always going to be three round grinds. I feel I made a huge step from my fight with Story to my fight on Saturday with Pierce. I’m starting to believe in myself and that I made that breakthrough.
MMAFrenzy: Oklahoma State University has groomed quite a few wrestlers that have migrated into MMA, including Mark Munoz, Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal, Shane Roller, and of course, Randy Couture. Not to mention, yourself. Talk about the transition to MMA, and how OSU helps in that regard:
Hendricks: The people that Oklahoma State gets are always hard nosed and willing to put the work in. Guys like me, we didn’t have money growing up, so we had to work at everything we wanted. My father told me in high school “Make sure you get that education, because no one can take that from you”, so I busted my butt in wrestling in high school (at Edmond Memorial High School in Edmond, Oklahoma) just to be able to pay for college. I continued with that throughout and after college.
MMAFrenzy: You train with fellow OSU alumni in Roller, Jake & Jared Rosholt at Team Takedown. How is it training with guys you’ve been working with for years?
Hendricks: I think it works out so well because we know our boundaries. We’ve been training together for years, and we feed off of that. We know what it’s like to be broken down at Oklahoma State, so we know how to help each other push through those struggles.
MMAFrenzy: What about training with new striking coach Steven Wright?
Hendricks: For a long time, I had been praying for a striking coach. King Mo [Muhammad Lawal] told me “I’ve got a coach for you”. He was telling me that for weeks, and then I got to finally spend a week with him. I clicked with him right away and I trusted him. I threw more strikes against Mike Pierce than any other fight in my career.
MMAFrenzy: Greatest facial hair in Oklahoma State history: Don Frye’s mustache or Johny Hendricks’ beard?
Hendricks:That’s a tough one. I have to admit, mustaches sure are sweet. Honestly, I never thought the following for my beard would get this big. My beard is just my personality. I do it because that’s how I feel. When I look in the mirror with that beard, I know that I am working hard towards something and the beard reflects that.
MMAFrenzy: Care to spill anything about your next matchup and when you plan to return?
Hendricks: Well, I’m not able to release who it is I have my eye on. I do know that I’ll be back pretty quickly. Not too soon, but definitely before the end of the year. I’m talking with the UFC about who and when. I can’t wait to announce who it is.