Johny Hendricks didn’t get the matchup he wanted, but he will have a fight on his hands March 16 when he meets Jake Ellenberger at UFC 158.
“It sucks, but it is what it is,” Hendricks told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show on Wednesday.
Hendricks wanted a shot against welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. The same night he’ll be fighting Ellenberger, though, GSP will be defending his title against Nick Diaz.
“I’ve done my campaigning,” Hendricks said. “I’ve done all I can do, and now that you have Jake Ellenberger in front of you, you can’t keep dwelling on the past. Right now if I don’t focus on Jake Ellenberger, then he could go out there and beat me just because you’re focused on something totally different. You’ve got to know Jake Ellenberger is a tough fight. It sucks that you do all this work and you’re not there, but guess what? It’s not the end of the world. I’m still able to fight. If I win this one, then I know I’ll be right where I was.”
But if he loses, Hendricks could slide down the welterweight ladder. This close to a title shot, it’s not a drop he wants to make.
“[Ellenberger] has shown that he can knock people out, and whenever you have that kind of power, you have to respect it,” Hendricks said. “You have to know, ‘OK, this guy is a heavy-handed guy.’ … That’s what makes fighting people like that a little bit more of a challenge, a fun challenge, because no matter what happens -- it might be the second or third round -- you still have to worry about everything. It makes it that much more exciting.”
Hendricks will have plenty of time to prepare for his March date with Ellenberger, but he had actually already been training for St. Pierre.
“We watched footage every day,” he said. “We were training stuff every day for about a week and a half before the news came out. I was excited. I thought I was going to have to compete against Anderson Silva to fight [St. Pierre]. That’s a tough person to compete against, and here it is somebody in my division that beat me to it. It is what it is.”
It’s another obstacle, but Hendricks is resolving himself to the task ahead. He considers Ellenberger just as difficult an opponent as St. Pierre and a “little bit more dangerous.”
“[With] Georges St. Pierre you don’t have to worry about knockout punches,” Hendricks said. “You’ve just got to worry about getting taken down. [With] Ellenberger, you’ve got to worry about the punch and also his takedowns. I’ve fought a couple of guys just like that, so I think I’m prepared.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 59:55).