On the sidelines recovering from surgery for a torn biceps suffered in his UFC 171 decision win over Robbie Lawler, UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks found out he’ll rematch “Ruthless” after the surging American Top Team (ATT) product edged out tough-as-nails Matt Brown in the main event of last Saturday night’s (July 26, 2014) UFC on FOX 12 from San Jose, California.
UFC president Dana White believes Hendricks is in for a tough test when he returns from a nearly yearlong layoff to face Lawler in early 2015, and he’s probably right.
Appearing on today’s edition of The MMA Hour, “Bigg Rigg” offered his assessment of Lawler’s win over Brown:
“It was a good win. Anytime you step in the Octagon and win, it’s good. Matt Brown, that was the first time he’s faced somebody in the top ten, but Matt Brown did a good job. It was a tough fight. It was a back and forth fight – a couple of those rounds were close, but I thought Robbie won. “
The champ touched on his rematch with the “Ruthless” one, stating that he is amped up to get another shot at Lawler:
“So now we get the rematch, and I’m sort of excited about that. Going into something healthy, with two arms, would be nice.”
It sounds like “Bigg Rigg” is labeling his close win over Lawler a byproduct of his injury, which nearly caused him to pull out of UFC 171. He acknowledged that it wasn’t his greatest performance, but chalked the victory up to pure toughness and the will to win. Now, “Bigg Rigg” believes it’s all about building on what he did do well:
“I was doing good combos, good leg kicks, and there are some other things that I can add into that. That fight was sometimes you just got to stand up and get a win. Sometimes they’re not pretty, sometimes you’re badly injured, you just got to get it done. That was that fight. Now it’s about going in there, reliving that fight, and seeing what I could have done better.”
His arm is apparently healing quite nicely, as the former Oklahoma State Cowboy reported that he’s quickly regaining much of his noted strength:
“My arm’s almost there. I’m lifting 100-pound weights. It’s almost 100 percent right now, and I still have a couple of weeks to work on it. I think in a couple of weeks when I go to the doctor, he’s going to be very happy.”
As for the inevitable topic of “GSP,” Hendricks admitted the thought of a rematch remains in the back of his mind:
“I’m not going to lie, I would like to fight him again, because now the tides are changed. And not only that, but that was my first five-round fight. I’m getting smarter.
And like I’ve been telling a lot of people, I’m not here to take away from GSP. He did lots of great things for the sport, lots of great things for the welterweight division. I want to build my own legacy.”
Hendricks said a rematch with St. Pierre would be huge; perhaps big enough to fill a stadium. But “Bigg Rigg” has an awful lot of work to do before he can think about that. With welterweight arguably the most stacked and perilous division in all of MMA right now, Hendricks would likely have to defeat at least one more contender even if he gets by Lawler for a second time.
He knows this, and he said a big showing by a few top welterweights could potentially bump Lawler from his title fight, a big reason why “Ruthless” has tried to stay fresh in the fans’ eyes as of late:
“You’re only as good as your last fight. Meaning, there are a lot of welterweight fights coming up. Let’s say Rory MacDonald or Dong Hyun Kim, any of these guys in the top ten, they finish somebody and then the fans are like, we want to see that fight. Realistically, I think that’s why [Lawler’s] been trying to stay in the public’s eye a lot.
When I was going for my first title shot [against Georges St-Pierre], that’s what I was doing. I was trying to stay in the public’s eye because you never know which fight is going to get you that title shot.
Same thing with all these other guys. Lawler’s the No. 1 pick right now, but if somebody else goes out there and does something amazing, who’s to say the fans don’t say we want to see that fight?”
Interesting. Would those suggest that Hendricks truly does want to face the bulldozing “Ruthless,” who appears beyond hell-bent on wresting the belt from his hands? At this point, it doesn’t look like the champion has a choice. Could that change with a highlight reel performance, or is Lawler’s rematch truly set in stone?
Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie for USA TODAY Sports