COMMENTARY | While it's not likely UFC welterweight contender Johny Hendricks is looking past his title fight with Robbie Lawler, he's still allowed to set goals, right?
Hendricks is slated to fight Lawler at UFC 171 on March 15 in Dallas for the vacated 170-pound title, but in a light-hearted interview with Ariel Helwani, "Bigg Rigg" was presented with another potential matchup down the road.
One with UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
"It would [be interesting], wouldn't it?" Hendricks said. "We're both wrestlers, both strong people. And if I get six months to really lift weights -- and my body just loves weights -- I know I can change myself to where 185 [pounds] would be not a hard weight cut, but a lot easier than making 170."
Hendricks and Weidman are both NCAA All-American wrestlers that can pack a heavy punch, just ask Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva.
But standing 5 feet, 9 inches tall, Hendricks may have trouble with Weidman's size (6-foot-2) and reach (78 inches). That doesn't concern the 30-year-old former NCAA national champion from Oklahoma State University. In fact, an eventual run at the 185-pound title is one of his goals, the welterweight said.
"Yeah, that would be great, wouldn't it?" said Hendricks, who typically cuts down from 220 pounds and has a 71-inch reach. "Here's the thing -- what do I fight now? Everybody's 6-foot, 6-foot-2. There's no height difference between 185 and 170. Everybody's a giant."
However, before a matchup between two of the UFC's newest stars could be arranged, Hendricks (15-2-0, eight KO/TKOs) has to get past Lawler (22-9-0, 18 KO/TKOs) in what promises to be a go-for-broke title fight in Texas.
"Bigg Rigg" is coming off a controversial loss to St-Pierre at UFC 167, a fight which many people scored in Hendricks' favor. Shortly thereafter, St-Pierre announced he was stepping away from mixed martial arts for an indefinite period of time, vacating the belt and setting the stage for the bout between Hendricks and Lawler.
It's a welcomed second chance for Hendricks, who faces a dangerous matchup with "Ruthless." Given Lawler's one-punch knockout power, a Hendricks victory is far from a foregone conclusion, which means he shouldn't look past the savvy veteran.
If Hendricks defeats Lawler, there's still a lot standing in the way of a potential fight with Weidman, namely, the rest of the welterweight field. He'd likely need to clear out the division before such a fight would even be entertained. That's a tall order considering competition like Carlos Condit, Rory MacDonald, and Jake Ellenberger, among many others, is waiting in the wings.
The same is true for Weidman (11-0-0, five KO/TKOs), who will have his hands full with Vitor Belfort in their yet-to-be-set matchup later this year. Plus, guys like Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Lyoto Machida are eyeing their shot at "The All-American" as well.
A Hendricks-Weidman matchup is definitely intriguing but nowhere near happening, something "Bigg Rigg" acknowledges, too.
First things first: The welterweight belt.
"I want to win [the title], defend it, do whatever the UFC wants me to do," Hendricks said. "Hopefully I can get it, defend it a couples times, and say, 'Hey, can I move up to 185?'"
Hey, you never know.
Paul Putignano lives in Southern California, where he has covered mixed martial arts and a wide array of sports across the Greater Los Angeles area. His work has been published in a variety of newspapers and online publications.
- Martial Arts
- Sports & Recreation
- Johny Hendricks
- Robbie Lawler
- Chris Weidman