Hendricks is preparing to face Robbie Lawler for the UFC welterweight championship, a title vacated by now-former champ Georges St-Pierre, and the fighter says he's finally in a place where he's wanted to be.
Even if he hasn't won that title just yet.
“I want to be the person who everybody's coming after,” Hendricks tells The Great MMA Debate Podcast. “That makes me excited. That means that I'm where I need to be. That's what it's about: everybody calling me out. I'm not very good at calling people out. I like the roles being flipped. It makes me excited that I'm finally to a point where everybody's wondering if I can do this and I can do that. Those are things that I strive for.”
Hendricks drew praise for going five rounds with St-Pierre, giving him a fight that a lot of people felt “Bigg Rigg” won. A split decision granted St-Pierre the official win, but Hendricks left that night in Las Vegas with his head held high.
The positive attitude Hendricks has likely comes form his enjoy-the-moment approach that he carries when he enters the Octagon. You have to give it your all, he says.
“Life throws a lot at you,” Hendricks explains. “What I've learned is take everything to the fullest, meaning do the best that I can with everything, and enjoy it. Enjoy the moment.”
This attitude is one that Hendricks says he hopes carries over and relates to everyone that follows his career. As a fighter, he can scrap with some of the best in the world and get acclaim, but as a person, Hendricks wants to be the model of what people strive to be. Doing so will secure a life for him and his family when his fighting days are done.
“What I want to do is I want to make sure the everyday person can relate,” he says. “That's been my goal from the very get go. It's harder to let your fighting do the talking because, let's be honest, it's a tough sport and you can't win them all, but if you can go out there and do your best and prove that you can do things, it makes people want to support you more. That's all I'm about. I know that fighting doesn't last forever, but I also know that a good name or a person who wants to be respectful, [if they take] the right steps, there's a career outside of MMA for them.”
Having a plan for the future, however, doesn't deter Hendricks from taking care of the task at hand. In front of him stands a fighter that has made a late-career resurgence in Lawler. The 13-year MMA veteran lost three out of his last four fights in Strikeforce, only to return to the UFC after a nine-year absence and win three in a row, earning a shot at the divisional crown.
Two of Lawler's last three wins have been finishes, which have essentially described the fighter's brutal knockout style over the past several years. It's something Hendricks says he's analyzed, giving him and his camp the right game plan for the main event in Las Vegas.
“He does something a little bit different,” Hendricks says of Lawler's style. “Whenever he feels very threatened, he's going to go all out. If you watch his fights, there's a moment where he's, like, ‘Okay, you've done enough, I'm going to do something back.' Whenever that happens, that's what we have to make sure we don't let happen. You have to be focused on what you're doing, but you also have to read the signs that say we know he's going to explode into his try to finish. There are some places where he likes to do it the most and that's what we have to be focused on.”
But Hendricks has made himself known as a finisher of sorts, too. With knockouts of fighters like Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann, Hendricks' left hand has become a well-known weapon, which he says makes Saturday's title fight all the more interesting.
“That's what's going to make this fun: Who [has] that one-punch knockout power?” he says. “And if we do have it, who's going to land it?”
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