Johny Hendricks Talks Martin Kampmann: “If I Beat Him There’s Nobody Else…I Know I’m The Number One Contender”
By Kelsey Mowatt
Although Johny Hendricks has been working his way up the UFC welterweight ranks since he made his debut for the promotion in 2009, it wasn’t until he bombed out the highly regarded Jon Fitch last December that he became a recognized, top contender. A win over Josh Koscheck in May earned Hendricks a November 17th fight with the suring Martin Kampmann, and although the title shot implications of that bout continue to shift, there’s no doubt it will be the biggest fight of his career to date.
“You have to be able to balance both of them,” Hendricks said recently on Full Contact Fighter Radio, while discussing how he’s coping with what’s riding on UFC 154. “Let’s be honest, after I beat Jon Fitch, once I knew I was going to fight Fitch, I knew that’s when I was going to have to start doing good. You know what I mean? Once you start getting these opportunities you don’t know when you’re time’s going to come to get a title shot.”
When the Kampmann, Hendricks bout was announced it was touted as a contest to determine the number one contender. Since then, however, heightened talk of a super fight between Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva has clouded the welterweight title shot schedule, despite the fact GSP still has to defeat Carlos Condit at UFC 154.
“Whenever you’re fighting these guys you’re fighting the top ranked and every fight is the most important fight, it’s like a title fight,” Hendricks added. “If you go in there and say, well, I don’t know if I win this one, that’s what they told me with my last fight too, if I beat Josh Koscheck that would happen…But there’s certain circumstances that couldn’t make that happen.”
Of course, as a result of St. Pierre being sidelined due to knee surgery, the UFC elected to match Condit up against Nick Diaz to determine an interim champion. After Condit won the bout he decided to wait for the return of GSP, rather than fight again.
“Here, it’s a totally different story, because if I beat him, there’s nobody else,” the 29 year-old-fighter added. “I know I’m the number one contender and so forth…I don’t put extra pressure on myself. It’s overrated. First off you got to train for a fight, and second of all, you have to be prepared; for that night you have to be the best you can be. If you add anything else into that it starts to damper your performance that night.”
Kampmann has also been steadily working his way into the title shot picture for quite some time, as since he dropped two tightly decision losses to Diego Sanchez and Jake Shields, the Danish fighter has won three straight. Most recently in June, the 30 year-old vet came from behind to stop another top ranked welterweight in Jake Ellenberger.
“If you hit him, you got to to hit him to put him away,” Hendricks noted about the resilient Kampmann. “You know what I mean? Put him asleep. That’s the only way you’re going to be able to do it. To finish him, you have to be able to do that…He’s a great fighter and he’s a very technical fighter.”
“Thiago Alves was winning the whole fight,” the former NCAA Division 1 wrestling champ recalled about Kampmann’s UFC on FX 2 bout with Alves. “30 seconds left he shoots a takedown and get’s guillotined. We’ve also seen him hit many guillotines on many different people, so I know he feels very comfortable throwing that.”
Kampmann is also an experienced kickboxer, so it will be interesting to see whether the powerful Hendricks elects to stand and trade with the welterweight, or test the Xtreme Couture fighter’s grappling abilities.
“The world hasn’t seen my ground game and that’s something I’m always eager to show,” said Hendricks. “Every fight I’m like ‘you know what, I think I want to take the guy down this fight and showcase my ground game’, but then I get out there I feel like they’re not hitting me, I start playing the angles and sometimes I don’t get to the ground. But I feel like my jiu jitsu is better than my striking.”
UFC 154 will be hosted by Montrea’s Bell Centre and will be available via pay-per-view.