Johny Hendricks admits it. The man behind that warm, bearded glow we’ve come to know and love has grown somewhat paranoid.
The dialogue starts with their upcoming fight at UFC 158 -- but by the time Hendricks is finished, St-Pierre and Diaz have completed one of the most epic trilogies in UFC history, spanning nearly two years.
“Let’s say Nick Diaz beats GSP [and] there’s a rematch,” Hendricks told ESPN.com. “Diaz holds the belt for six months, so then you’d be at 10 months from my last fight. Then you’re looking at, what if GSP wins but barely beats him? You know the UFC will want to do a third one. Then the winner needs five months to prepare for me, so that’s maybe 20 months.”
You can’t blame Hendricks (14-1), who now fights Carlos Condit at UFC 158 following an injury to Rory MacDonald, for thinking this way. This is the guy who Diaz (26-8) leapfrogged for the title shot, despite losing his last fight.
Count Hendricks among those who were interested in the inaugural UFC rankings, which the promotion released this month. He wasn’t shocked when he saw his name trailing only St-Pierre at 170 pounds.
“[St-Pierre] said he doesn’t think I’m the No. 1 contender,” Hendricks said. “We saw in the UFC rankings that the whole world does.
“It is what it is. I won’t be shocked ever again. The thing is, I know I’m going to have to fight these guys sooner or later. That’s the only reason I’m OK with getting all these fights. Whenever I do get the belt, I’ll already have a win over these guys.”
Hendricks was dealt an interesting hand this week, when news broke MacDonald had been forced out of his fight against Condit.
Condit (28-6) is a bigger name than Hendricks’ originally scheduled opponent, Jake Ellenberger (28-6). Big-name opponents usually represent the quicker path to a title shot.
Hendricks, however, is already widely considered the No. 2-ranked welterweight in the world. So is there much of a difference between a win over Condit and a win over Ellenberger? He believes, “Yes.”
“He was the interim title holder, he just fought GSP,” Hendricks said of his new opponent. “If you go out there and do good against him, they can’t hold anything from you. At that moment, there’s nothing they can take from you.
“If I beat Jake Ellenberger but don’t do it impressively, do I get that title shot? With this fight, as long as I win, that right there is another solidifying moment for me.”
Hendricks wouldn’t go so far as to say Condit is a more difficult fight. For Ellenberger, he had been training for a lot of hooks and takedowns. With Condit, he says he’s done a “180,” preparing for a taller guy with knees, kicks and a ground game.
If you’re wondering whether he hesitated taking the fight, the answer is no. He received a phone call asking to comment on the new matchup before he was even aware MacDonald had pulled out.
At this stage, Hendricks is unafraid of any fight at 170 pounds. There may be that sense of paranoia in his mind, but he also knows no one can deny him forever if he accepts tough fights and comes out on top.
“After this fight, I get my hand raised -- the good Lord willing -- and there’s nothing Georges can do to keep me from fighting him,” Hendricks said. “The only thing he can do is move to 185.”