MMA fighter Johny Hendricks will face champion Georges St-Pierre for the UFC Welterweight title Saturday in Las Vegas. Hendricks, a native of Ada, Okla., follows NASCAR and has struck up a friendship with Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick. One week before his fight with St-Pierre, Hendricks spoke with NASCAR.com.
How did you get to know Kevin Harvick?
I was able to meet Kevin about eight months ago, right before I fought (Carlos) Condit. He came into my gym, we hung out, we went out to dinner. From there we started texting one another; I was ... wishing him luck every race. I root for him, for Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. because they were my guys. Those four have always been there.
Kevin spent some time with you in the ring before the NASCAR race in Texas. Can he hold his own in the Octagon?
You know what, he's not bad. ... He wrestled in high school in California and that's a tough place to wrestle. Not only that but he stays in shape. NASCAR is definitely a tough sport. Driving for hour hours in those temperatures is tough. I think in the right environment he could probably be a fighter.
You had an outstanding wrestling career in high school and college. How much of that experience benefits you in the ring today?
I think the power would always be there. ... You either have it or you don't. Now, would it be as powerful as it is now? I don't think so. ... I think the wrestling helped me develop my hips, my core and my legs to be able to throw those kinds of punches and to finish fights.
Did you ever consider another type of career after college?
Realistically I thought I was going for the Olympics (to wrestle) or ... I was going to be behind a desk. But I knew I still wanted to compete.
Kevin Harvick and Johny Hendricks together at the track. (Harold Hinson Photography)
Does your training routine vary depending on who it is you will be facing?
Yes, for sure. You have to adjust and adapt your style depending on your opponent ... their strengths and weaknesses. What I like to tie it into is just like the drivers and the tracks they go to (every week). Everything is going to be different -- it might be another mile-and-a-half track but how they go through the corners, how much rubber is on the asphalt, the weather is always different. The same thing with fighting -- you adapt how you're fighting an opponent because each one is different.
You and St-Pierre are intelligent, well-spoken competitors. For people who don't follow or understand the sport, or think it's just two thugs in a ring, what would you like them to know about it?
I'd be the first one to say, "sorry," the first one to try to move out of the way (outside the ring). These are the kinds of things that I want people to know about this sport. We (fight) in the octagon. We don't do it (outside). We do it behind closed doors or in a gym. This is a sport. ... It's a way to compete. The thrill of not knowing how you're going to do, if you're going to lose, or if you're going to lose at all.
FULL SERIES COVERAGE
- Sports & Recreation
- Martial Arts
- Johny Hendricks
- Kevin Harvick