Johny Hendricks has designs on a second welterweight title reign. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
A nine-month reign atop the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight mountain was not enough for Johny Hendricks.
In his first appearance since surrendering the 170-pound title to Robbie Lawler, Hendricks will lock horns with Matt Brown at UFC 185 “Pettis vs. dos Anjos” on Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Whoever emerges victorious will have a claim as a potential No. 1 contender.
“I want to get back to that title,” Hendricks told UFC.com in a pre-fight interview, “and nothing is going to get in the way of that.”
“I just want to constantly evolve, and I think the only way to do that is to put myself out there,” Brown said. “I want to do one step further than what everyone else is doing.”
Hendricks holds some definite advantages on paper, particularly in the wrestling department. The Team Takedown export was a four-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State University, where he won consecutive national championships in 2005 and 2006. Hendricks also wields a concussive left hand that has cut down fighters like Martin Kampmann and Jon Fitch. Healthy anxieties drive Brown.
“I’m scared of Johny Hendricks,” he said. “I’m afraid that he’s working harder than me. I’m afraid that he’s better than me. There is no motivator like fear, right? As I get closer to the fight, I’m going to be more and more scared, until the bell rings and then the fear is gone. Now, he has got to be afraid of me.”
The split decision defeat to Lawler at UFC 181 in December still haunts Hendricks, an Ada, Okla., native who has never lost back-to-back bouts.
“I thought I won,” he said. “That’s whenever I told myself, ‘That won’t happen again.’ I want that belt back, and I know how to get it. Now is the time to prove it.”
WEARING THE BULL’S EYE
Esparza will defend the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight crown for the first time when she faces the unbeaten Joanna Jedrzejczyk in the UFC 185 co-main event. A Team Oyama rep, the 27-year-old champion will enter the cage on a five-fight winning streak, having claimed 115-pound gold with a third-round submission on Rose Namjunas in December.
“I think I’ve reached basically the highest point that I can as a fighter being the UFC champion, but as my coach says, ‘Getting the belt: hard. Keeping the belt: even harder,’” Esparza said. “I guess I’ll find out.”
Jedrzejczyk has rattled off eight straight wins to start her career, five of them by decision. She surfaced as the division’s top contender at UFC on Fox 13 in December, when she exited her encounter with Nova Uniao’s Claudia Gadelha with a three-round split decision.
“She has some sick striking [and] really good takedown defense,” Esparza said. “She is one of the best fighters in the world, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge for me.”
THIS & THAT
INSIDE THE VENUE
The American Airlines Center opened in July 2001 at a cost of $420 million and serves as the home arena for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and the NHL’s Dallas Stars.