When Johny Hendricks was dominating the 165lb weight class from 2004-2007 for Oklahoma State university, he wasn’t considered to be among the most beloved wrestlers at the time. In fact he wasn’t well-liked by many of his opponents, their class mates and collegiate wrestling fans. When Hendricks finally lost to Mark Perry from Iowa University in the NCAA finals it not only handed him his first loss of the year after 56 straight wins, it sent his biggest detractors in to a frenzy.
Being the bad guy is not something that Hendricks enjoys. He relishes the role of father, husband, friend and team mate, you’d be hard pressed to get him to say a negative word about anyone. With that being said if Hendricks wants the UFC welterweight title shot as badly as he says he does, he may have to tap into the heel persona that many labeled him with during his time on the college wrestling mats. Being a nice guy just isn’t getting the job done these days.
Bigg Rigg has won five straight fights including two first round knockouts over Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann as well as a split decision victory over Josh Koscheck. He sports an impressive 14-1 record with eight knockouts and seemingly positioned himself as the rightful number one contender to Georges St. Pierre’s title with his 46 second thrashing of Kampmann at UFC 154.
Hendricks’s main concern after his win over “The Hitman” was whether or not the UFC was going to put together a proposed superfight between GSP and UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. Fans and UFC President Dana White have been salivating at the idea of the two champions meeting in a catchweight bout. The idea was for GSP & Silva to fight in a stadium either in Brazil, Canada or ironically enough, Texas. After GSP waffled and made it pretty clear he wanted nothing to do with the Silva fight at this time, Hendricks thought his dream was about to come true, but in stepped a new roadblock in the form of former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion and MMA bad boy Nick Diaz.
GSP and Diaz were scheduled to fight last year at UFC 137, but Diaz lost the main event slot because of his failure to show up to two straight press conferences promoting the event. Carlos Condit stepped in, but St. Pierre was injured and wound up spending the next 19 months on the shelf rehabbing from knee surgery. Diaz fought BJ Penn at UFC 137 and won via unanimous decision earning himself an interim welterweight bout opposite Condit at UFC 143. As well all know Condit won and Diaz then tested positive for marijuana and was subsequently suspended for a full year.
While Diaz has a ton of talent and the fight with GSP will certainly be entertaining, it’s hard to fathom how someone who is not only coming off of a loss, but a one year drug suspension can leapfrog someone who has the credentials of Hendricks. Apparently the UFC is more interested in the talking you do outside of the cage and the money you can make the company rather than your performance inside of it. Earlier this week UFC President Dana White announced that GSP-Diaz will main event UFC 158 this March in Montreal and if that isn’t bad enough, Hendricks will face Jake Ellenberger that same night. Nothing against Ellenberger, but he recently lost to Kampmann and then followed that loss up with a lackluster unanimous decision victory over Jay Hieron.
There are a lot of fans in favor of the GSP-Diaz fight, but we spoke to a few MMA personalities recently on BJPenn.Com Radio and even though they understand the financial ramifications of pitting GSP vs. Diaz, they also understand that Hendricks has done more than enough to earn a crack at the welterweight title GSP wears around his waist.
“Am I correct or is Nick coming off of a loss,” questioned Stephen Quadros. “It seems like the logical guy to put in (Against GSP) would be Johny Hendricks because he earned his way up there by knocking everyone who got in his way out. That includes Kampmann who was primed to be one of the guys in the top two or three himself. I understand you make the celebrity thing and make money out of your investment, but is it (MMA) a sport or a celebrity based reality show? Diaz is a character and I guess that’s the most important thing rather than who you beat.”
“Imagine if the NFL was all about glitz and the teams who won their division titles didn’t get into the Super Bowl because they weren’t popular enough. You have to make a stand here and make it into a sport. Nick has earned his way up there and is definitely a contender, but Hendricks is the number one contender. How do you earn a title shot, by beating people or by having a public image? You can’t have it both ways unfortunately, we’ve seen other organizations go both ways and eventually you have to come to a crossroads. Are you going to be a pro wrestling organization or are you going to be a legitimate sport organization? You basically have to do one or the other, after awhile people aren’t going to take you as serious. It’s all about popularity, staying in control and PR campaigns. It’s no longer about who won or who is winning.”
“I’m a big Nick Diaz fan and I like Nick just as much as anybody, but I don’t see how you do it (Give Diaz a title shot), offered Damon Martin. “If the division is cleared out and there’s nobody on a winning streak or it’s a rivalry fight then I get why you give Diaz the shot. There’s a guy in Hendricks standing there with three wins over top five welterweights and two of them are knockouts in the first round. One of them is over a guy (Jon Fitch) who went five rounds with GSP. He also has win over another guy in Koshcheck who went the distance with St. Pierre. To deny Hendricks seems crazy to me, if you don’t have Hendricks maybe I could see it and say it’s a rivalry and no one else is standing head and shoulders above the crowd. In reality no one else does right now, they are either coming off of a loss or only have one win in a row like Ellenberger, but Hendricks is that guy. As good as Diaz is he just doesn’t deserve it.”
“I couldn’t agree more, I think it’s obviously going to the fight fans “want to see” said Josh Nason. “I’d be really excited to see GSP vs. Hendricks; this guy is just wrecking people left and right with that powerful punch. I think it would be a great fight. How do you justify Hendricks not getting the shot? What I think Dana is going to rely on is that St. Pierre asked for the fight with Diaz because they have unfinished business, but that doesn’t mean you have to make the fight now. Diaz is coming off a suspension and still has to be licensed and the other aspect is he’s coming off of a loss. It’s hard to justify it, but it looks like that’s the way things are going. Dana didn’t really get his way in terms of the St. Pierre-Silva fight and I don’t know if we’ll ever see that one so he’ll do the Diaz fight instead. It’s unfortunate for Hendricks and hopefully he’ll get his shot at some point.”
“Hendricks is a great fighter and actually has a very nice personality once you get to know him,” Karyn Bryant added. “How many people are walking around with a Johny Hendricks t-shirt? There are not a lot of them. He either hasn’t worked the media the right way or done the things to get his personality out there to get people to cling to him. People can remember a 12 second knockout of Fitch for a night or two, but he needs to stay public and stay out there in the open and work his personality. I don’t know if he’s the right guy to be able to say title fight next or nothing. I don’t know if he’s the right person in the right positioning to say that and make that demand. He might deserve it on paper, but it’s more than that.”
After listening to the opinions of some well respected journalists we turned our attention to a fighter and one of the top executives in fight management to see what they thought about the Hendricks/GSP/Diaz saga.
“I think Hendricks is definitely being overlooked,” offered Mike Ricci. “I think he can beat Nick Diaz, I know the GSP-Diaz was the fight that was supposed to happen and I think it’s the fight that people want to see. I don’t understand how Diaz can come off of a loss to Condit and be given a title shot with Hendricks performing the way that he has been. It’s (GSP-Diaz) the fight that people want to see and I think that Georges is easily going to walk through Diaz.”
“I’m a big fan of both Johny and Nick, I think they are both tremendous athletes, but I think there’s something to be said for going out and proving your worth,” Lex McMahon said. “Johny has done that time and time again. I get that the sport is now a combination of sport and entertainment and you have PPV buys and all that other stuff to take into consideration. It’s difficult to say, as much as I like Nick, he’s coming off of a suspension and a loss, that he should be rewarded with a title shot. That to me is probably not the best thing, but it’s not my job to make fights and sell PPV’s, that’s the UFC’s job. I hope that Johny gets his shot because I think he absolutely deserves it.”
There you have it, the facts are in black and white and five well respected members of the MMA community have voiced their opinions. Unfortunately Hendricks will have to wait and he will also have to defeat a very tough challenger in Ellenberger in the mean time. I remember talking to Mark Munoz after he had pulled out of his UFC on Fox 2 bout with Chael Sonnen. He told me that he is not the type of guy that will run his mouth or look to draw attention to himself, but he was also beginning to realize that in order to get places in the UFC, he might have to change things up a little bit. Maybe that is some advice for Hendricks because it’s very evident his talking in the cage just isn’t enough to get the job done right now and that’s unfortunate.Tags: Anderson Silva, BJPennDotCom Radio, Carlos Condit, georges st. pierre, jake ellenberger, johny hendricks, Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, martin kampmann, mike ricci, Nick Diaz, Rory MacDonald, UFC 158