At Oklahoma State, Johny Hendricks was nearly unbeatable. The NCAA Division I wrestler won two national titles, three Big 12 titles and four All-American honors. Even in his senior year where he lost to Mark Perry in 2007 in the finals, he walked into that bout with a record of 56-0.
More importantly, Hendricks had a name and a reputation. Hendricks was widely regarded as a wrestling anti-hero: too accomplished to dismiss, but too arrogant to love. Watch the video of Hendricks match against Perry in the 2007 finals. The announcer's first description of him? "Everybody loves to hate him if you're not from Oklahoma State, but none seem to be able to beat him," he says.
Hendricks is certainly accomplished in MMA and the UFC, but has yet to achieve that standout, elite status in the ultra-stacked UFC welterweight division. He's only suffered one loss, a surprising and tough defeat at the hands of Rick Story, but hasn't fulfilled the promise his NCAA wrestling career foretold.
At UFC 133, Hendricks will fight in his ninth fight under the Zuffa banner and seventh in the UFC, yet, is competing on the undercard. Worse, his opponent, Mike Pierce, is widely-regard among insiders as a bull capable of giving even the most elite welterweights difficulty, yet carries little to promotional name value. It's a test for Hendricks as a fighter and a potential disaster for him as box-office attraction.
But if you let Hendricks tell it, that's why things have changed for him. He no longer lives in Las Vegas. He's still with Team Takedown, but is closer to his Oklahoma State roots. He's also realized that despite all of his many wins, he believes he must get back to his wrestling, but with one caveat: he doesn't want to be the villain again. Hendricks claims he wants to make his mark through dominant victories over credible opposition, one at a time, until there's no one left to fight.
In this exclusive interview from MMA Nation Radio on 106.7 The Fan in Washington, DC, Hendricks opens up about his loss to Rick Story, reconnecting with Oklahoma State and coach John Smith and facing the dangerously tough Mike Pierce.
Full audio and transcription below:
Luke Thomas: Johny, how are you sir?