Johny Hendricks (13-1) is on a mission towards a UFC welterweight title shot.
In the past 11-months, the 29-year-old has defeated two former title challengers in Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck, and as he nears a Nov. 17 clash with Martin Kampmann at UFC 154, Hendricks is looking to add a third consecutive win over a top-10 opponent to his resume.
“He’s tough,” Hendricks told FightCove.com of Kampmann. “…You don’t get to be on the top tier of it without being tough. Other than that, not really too worried about anything, you know? What I’ve learned is I just need to be confident with what I can do, and try to go out there and do my game plan. Nothing else other than that really matters.”
Kampmann is arguably the toughest opponent “Bigg Rigg” has fought to date. The Danish fighter is coming off impressive comeback wins against Thiago Alves and Jake Ellenberger, and will look to make a case for a title shot as well as ‘Fighter of the Year’ by defeating Hendricks in Montreal. Kampmann has proven to be one of the most difficult fighters to beat at 170-pounds, but Hendricks, who brought in Ben Saunders, Jordan Mein and T.J. Grant as special training partners for this fight, thinks he can succeed where Kampmann’s previous opponents failed and put ‘The Hitman’ away in devastating fashion.
“It’s like, he has been finished.” Hendricks said of Kampmann’s toughness and durability. “He’s been dropped by a couple people, and with these guys, you know Thiago (Alves) had him hurt, but he went for a takedown instead of staying on the feet and keep hitting him. Thiago does that, does he finish Martin Kampmann? You know, so those are things we just don’t know because he ended up taking him down. Also, I believe in my power, you know what I am saying? And one thing that I do know is that if I hit you, I can sort of see how your eyes react.
“If they react a certain way, I can go in kill mode. But it’s hard, it’s hard sometimes to go in kill mode because you might be fighting a guy that has heavy hands just like you. So with this fight, he doesn’t have really heavy hands, he just has really crisp striking, right? And so if you go out there with the game plan of, ‘I can hurt him’, all you have to do is worry about the straight punches. We saw it with Jake Ellenberger. Jake Ellenberger rocked him, hurt him on the feet and Jake Ellenberger came in and (Kampmann) caught him with that little right hand. That’s something that Kampmann does a lot and he’s very successful at it. So, knowing that I can’t go in just straight forward. If I do come in, I‘ve got to create angles.”
Stylistically Kampmann has a very different skill set than Hendricks’ past two opponents. Koscheck, who Hendricks defeated in May, is a wrestler with a lot of power in his strikes, but Kampmann is a technician all the way around. Kampmann may not pose the same threats with his one-punch power like Koscheck, however Hendricks does not want to disrespect his opponent and says he’s carrying the same mindset going into UFC 154 as he would if he were fighting the hardest hitter in the division.
“I’ve been hit by the hardest guys, I think in my division. And when I sit there and take a step back, that’s how I’m treating Kampmann. He might hit as hard as – you know I don’t believe it – but I’m treating it like he’s going to hit as hard as Josh Koscheck. Just so that way you don’t go out there and have a mental lapse. Or you don’t go in there and not do your best performance.”
There is no denying Hendricks and Kampmann are the top two active welterweights in the UFC outside of the UFC 154 main event between Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit. The two men will be vying for a future shot at the title with a win on Nov. 17. While the UFC hasn’t officially told Hendricks he will get a title shot if he wins, the Ohio native would like nothing more to get a chance to become a UFC champion.
“I know I want a title shot and hopefully this fight can get me that. But also I know if it doesn’t, you got to fight one more, that’s just the way it goes. All I can do is do my best that night and hopefully everything works out. That’s all I can prepare for. Of course like I said I would love a title shot if I go out there and win this fight, that’s what I’m looking at and that’s what I’m preparing for.”
“…I know that I can look towards that, but I also know that I can’t overlook Kampmann or that title shot picture is not even close to in the mix.”
With a win at UFC 154, Hendricks would expect a title shot, but considering the uncertainty surrounding the future of the title -especially if St-Pierre wins at UFC 154- Hendricks is not going to let the situation get him down. In fact, he will get back in the gym, train harder and make sure he wins his next fight and solidifies his name as the undisputed No. 1 contender.
“Yeah of course I would be disappointed [if I don't get a title shot]. You know, between him and Condit, they held the belts up for what? 14-months, 15-months?” Hendricks said. “…Now there’s new people coming in, you know there’s new people that are coming in to push, that can push GSP. You know and that’s what I want to do. If I win, I think that it’s not going to happen. But hey, if I go out there and lose, then that might happen. Then I don’t care. That’s sort of what I am hoping is that I can go out there, all I got to do is get my hand raised however it may be, you know go out there and win your fights and then worry about all that stuff second-hand. Because like I said, if I’m sitting there worrying about, ‘Oh, even if I do win, I might not get a title shot’, well you’re overstepping – you’re thinking about too much.
“You know I just want to take a step back and be like all right, if it happens, good lord willing it happens, if it doesn’t, guess what? You’ve got to sit there and pick yourself up and train harder and win another fight.”
Title shot or no title shot, Hendricks knows an opportunity to fight for the gold will happen one day as long as he keeps on winning. A loss would be crippling to his career and that’s why, even though a knockout or submission would be nice, simply winning at UFC 154 is what’s most important to Hendricks.
“(My prediction) is to get a W,” he said. “Look for a finish, if the finish is there awesome, but if not, the most important thing I can do right now is just get a W. I’ve done all the prep work to get me where I’m at and to get me what I want, now it’s just about getting your hand raised that night and waiting to see who you’re going to be fighting.”