When Johny Hendricks annihilated Martin Kampmann at UFC 154, most thought he was a shoo-in to challenge Georges St-Pierre for the welterweight title. However, when St-Pierre expressed his desire to face Nick Diaz instead, Hendricks had to settle for Jake Ellenberger.
Hendricks vs. Ellenberger was scheduled for UFC 158, but when Rory MacDonald, who was supposed to fight Carlos Condit on the same card, suffered an injury, the promotion decided to shuffle things around. When the dust settles, Hendricks was left facing Condit, the division's former interim champion.
While many fighters would have been rattled by an opponent switch, preceded by dashed expectations, Hendricks is taking it all in stride, as he noted during a recent conference call. (H/T MMA Weekly, for preserving the call audio, and sifting out Hendricks' input).
You got to constantly be adaptable, meaning that, of course I wanted to fight Georges St-Pierre, but he chose somebody else; fine, cool. I had Jake Ellenberger. I trained very hard for him then I was able to get Carlos Condit, an excellent fighter, that’s what it’s all about.
It's a good thing Hendricks feels prepared heading into UFC 158, because as impressive as his recent five-fight win streak has been, Condit may represent the stiffest challenge of his career. But with big challenges come big rewards, and Hendricks knows that a victory over "The Natural Born Killer" puts him even closer to that elusive title shot.
The most important thing is to win fights. It's doesn't matter how you do it. If that means you got to take that end to get the win like Georges does, then do it. It's about getting your hand raised, and the fans like that. So it is what it is.
At the risk of jinxing it, a W for Hendricks at UFC 158 probably does mean that he finally reaches the promised land, and will have the right to contest the winner of St-Pierre vs. Diaz sometime in the late summer. But of course, that's not a given, and no one knows that better than Hendricks himself.
"The only thing that matters is, like Georges said, is everybody’s got to be on top, but there can only be one and we’re all fighting to get there."
So, first thing first. Hendricks has to beat Condit this Saturday night, or it's back down the ladder for him.