Johny Hendricks – No Country For Old Men

Rhett sent this in:

Johny Hendricks likes the serenity of the Oklahoma countryside. The stillness of the country, which can frighten the hardcore city slicker, always soothed Hendricks when he grew up in Ada and Jones, Oklahoma. However, Hendricks also had to grow up fast amid the lush settings to manage his realities: of war, wrestling and determination led by a vision for a career in the fight business.

“It’s a little bit of heaven, the country, you get to see the stars at night,” he said. “In Vegas you don’t get to see the stars; in Oklahoma I can drive 25-30 minutes and be in the country and enjoy the peace and quiet of no planes, no cars; I love that kind of stuff. I have an older brother and it was great. I tried to fit in with my older brother more just because he was older than me and I wanted to be around him and his friends so I had to grow up a little bit, mature a little bit quicker. Then he went to the military when I was about 16 or 17 and he got shipped over to Iraq.”

Outside of the shadow of his earliest fraternal mentor, Hendricks took to football, baseball and wrestling, with the latter eventually overtaking all else.

“Those were the three sports I played, and then in 9th grade my mom said I was too small for football so I just stuck with wrestling and baseball. Then my junior year I quit baseball to focus all my time on wrestling, and here I am. I went to Oklahoma State University and wrestled there all five years, graduated, got my diploma and as soon as I got my diploma I got into the fight business. College didn’t teach me anything I guess (laughs).”

Having majored in Secondary Education while an OSU Cowboy, Hendricks’ initial plan had nothing to do with MMA. The allure of the familiarity the country provided was almost too much to ignore, however, the maturity harnessed in relation to his brother and his new life as an OSU wrestler led him down another path.

“I wanted to be a college coach. I wanted to stay at Oklahoma State and be an assistant coach or a graduate college coach, whatever I could be. I love Oklahoma State, it’s the perfect place for me, so that’s what I was going to school for and then all of a sudden I took a huge left turn. As soon as I graduated I had two weeks to say goodbye to my family and I loaded up the U-Haul and drove to Las Vegas,” says a still excited Hendricks. “I made it in two days and then I took three days to pack everything into the house and then that Monday started training. I know I had to train a lot harder than most people because a lot of people have a boxing or kickboxing sort of background. The people that I had to compete with, if they were wrestlers, well they’ve already done all this stuff for probably two or three years so I put in six hours a day just going class to class so I could one day hopefully catch up to those guys.”

Catch up he did, as Hendricks sports an impressive undefeated professional fighting record of 6-0. In 2008, Hendricks entered the Zuffa-owned World Extreme Cagefighting organization, stepping up his level of competition and visibility. For Hendricks it was old shoe capturing a 2nd round TKO over Justin Haskins, who was on a two-fight win streak. Next, a decision victory over Alex Serdyukov at WEC 39 had Hendricks looking like the new guy on the come up in the WEC’s welterweight division. Then momentum shifted in the catch-22 sense, as the WEC decided to disband its larger weight classes and focus on the smaller guys as the brand standard. For Hendricks, it was yet another chance to display his maturation in the game

“My first fight in the UFC I was looking around at people trying to figure it out. I’ve been in the spotlight, I’ve had 17,000 people or 16,000 people sitting there looking at you wanting you to lose. I’ve been there, done that through wrestling and I just look at that and this (UFC) is no different. I was looking around but it wasn’t that big of a deal because I was just like, ‘man it’s finally here – I finally get to punch somebody for real.’ That’s all I was thinking about. I trained for so long, it feels like forever; at that point it was 14 weeks and I was like, man is this ever going to come? Then you’re in there and it’s like, ‘yeah I’m just out here to have fun.’ I was just excited to get to that point.”

The proof: a 0:29 second knockout over TUF winner Amir Sadollah.

“I’m a wrestler, and I have to have people respect my hands. Amir, he’s a tough dude. We saw him in his last fight against Phil Baroni, he’s a really tough dude and that puts a statement on me that I’m not just a wrestler. I can strike a little bit too. I’m not saying I can strike a lot, but I can do it enough to protect myself to be able to take it to the ground. And that’s what I want people to do is fear my hands and then they don’t know which way I want to go with it.”

Looking forward to his next opponent, another Octagon debutant in undefeated Ricardo Funch, Hendricks relies on the same wisdom that took him from an old soul in the country to the desert where he has flourished.

“I really do think this is a good fight for me because he hasn’t been in the UFC and he might have the will and desire that I had when I first jumped in the UFC. This might be a good test for me. He doesn’t have a name; I still don’t think I do, and he’s the new guy on the block, so what does he got, what can he do? He might be the guy who knocks me off. I want to stay in the UFC and I’ve got to do everything I can to make sure that I stay impressive because if I don’t, who’s to say that they don’t have somebody else in there that wants it more than I do. There’s always somebody out there training a little harder and a little bit better than you and that’s the way I’ve always thought and that’s the way I’m going to keep thinking.”

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