Although much of the focus in the aftermath of last month’s UFC 154 has been on the glorious return of UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre, the fact remains that the most impressive performance on the card was Johny Hendricks, who scored a beautiful one-punch knockout of Martin Kampmann in the first round. Immediately after the fight, Hendricks began to posture for a shot at the title by discount double-checking around the cage and making his desire clear in his post-fight interviews.
Unfortunately for Hendricks, in the two weeks since UFC 154, most of the talk about St. Pierre’s next fight has centered around guys not named Johny Hendricks. For instance, in the immediate aftermath of the event, all of the focus centered around whether the UFC would finally be able to put together the long-talked about superfight between St. Pierre and UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. Then, as the possibility of that fight began to cool, GSP’s trainer Firas Zahabi made waves by suggesting that Nick Diaz, and not Hendricks, was the rightful number one contender. Undeterred, Hendricks made a firm stand in a recent appearance on MMA Junkie Radio, saying:
“‘I’m not going to fight unless it’s for a belt,’ Hendricks on Friday told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). ‘Nothing else matters but the belt. My last three fights were guys in the top five, and I finished two of those three fights. I stated my claim. My stock’s really high right now, and the only thing left is to get a shot at that belt.’”
I appreciate Hendricks taking a hard stance in order to drive home the point that he is deserving of a title shot. Especially because Hendricks really is so deserving, having recently defeated former contenders Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck, and Martin Kampmann in what was initially-billed as a title eliminator.
At the same time, we all know that the UFC is in the business of promoting fights, and not necessarily doing what seems fair from a rankings standpoint. If you need any confirmation of that, look no further than what is currently going on in the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions. In fact, Hendricks finds himself in a position very similar to that which Chris Weidman is currently in when it comes to Silva’s belt: he’s probably the most deserving of a title shot in the division, but also extremely likely to get passed by for a more “lucrative” match-up in terms of pay per view buys.
With that in mind, I hope Johny Hendricks didn’t effectively retire from the UFC by proclaiming he won’t fight again unless it’s for the title. Because, as we have seen when it comes to people content with sitting back and waiting for title shots (see Evans, Rashad), the amount of hoops Hendricks may eventually have to get through in order to get that title shot might prove to be much greater stress than merely taking another fight in the short term, as the UFC sorts out GSP’s next move.
Along these lines, beating the winner of Rory MacDonald/B.J. Penn would leave no doubt that he is the true next in line for a shot. If I was advising him, I would make it clear that calling out said winner now is the best course of action.