We didn't know it at the time, but then-UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and challenger Johny Hendricks met one another at UFC 167 last month at polar opposite points in their career. If that fact didn't become clear through the fight - one in which Hendricks controlled and did the most damage but which was ultimately awarded to St. Pierre through a controversial split decision - it certainly has become obvious through their respective comments since their bout.
St. Pierre told the world immediately after his win over Hendricks that he needed time away from the sport. Last week GSP reiterated that sentiment and vacated his championship.
After about ten years in the UFC and most of that time spent as a champion, St. Pierre is burned out and described the weight on his shoulders as too much for him at this point in his life. Hendricks, on the other hand, is eager to have that weight and a target on his back.
"I want the target on my back," he told MMA Fighting this week.
"I want everybody to come after me. That’s been my goal since I started fighting. Is that I want the gold and I want everybody to sit there saying, ‘I want to beat that guy.’ And that’s been my whole thought process through this whole time, [because] I need that. For some reason I enjoy that kind of pressure. The more pressure you can put on me and get me out of my comfort zone, the better I shine. And that’s what I wanted."
Hendricks will now face Robbie Lawler in fight to fill the vacant welterweight title spot at UFC 171 in his home town of Dallas, TX in March. The former NCAA wrestling national champion insists that he doesn't care who he has to beat to become champion, he just wants the belt.
"Here’s the thing, if I fight GSP again I fight him again. If I don’t, I don’t. My world doesn’t revolve around him. It revolves around that belt," Hendricks explained.
"And that’s what I’ve been saying this whole time. I’m not fighting GSP, I want what he carried around to all those press conferences, that’s what I was fighting for, and that’s still what I’m fighting for."
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